Day: June 11, 2024

Why Does Horse Race Reporting Hurt?

A horse race is a contest in which the first horse to cross the finish line wins. It’s one of the oldest of all sports, and its basic concept has remained virtually unchanged over centuries. Today’s races can involve enormous fields and sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment, but the essential feature is still the same.

When journalists covering elections focus primarily on who’s in the lead and who’s behind instead of policy issues – what’s known as horse race coverage — voters, candidates and even the news industry itself suffer, according to a growing body of research. We’ve rounded up some of the best research here to help you understand why and how horse race reporting hurts, and offer some ways it can be improved.

The earliest horse races were match races between two or at most three horses, with the owners providing the purse and the bettors placing wagers. In these early days, an owner who withdrew commonly forfeited half the purse; later, a withdrawing owner would lose all his or her bets. Agreements were recorded by disinterested third parties, who became known as keepers of the match books.

As the sport grew, prizes were introduced to encourage more participation and create a more dramatic spectacle. These rewards also helped increase the value of the sport, and a sense of competition developed between breeders and owners. In the 17th century, Charles II re-established racing and created the Newmarket Town Plate. He inherited the sport from Oliver Cromwell, who outlawed it along with wrestling and gambling.

Races are written for specific ages and genders to ensure that horses of the same type compete on an even playing field. For example, fillies cannot run against males unless they are competing in a race that is specifically written for female runners. Races are also designed to give horses that haven’t won before a chance to win, by allowing them to run in races that are rated for novices or claimers.

The most exciting races climax in the moment just before the outcome becomes clear, and the greatest shows of power and grace are celebrated with an individual performance that proclaims a race’s greatness. Secretariat’s 31-length demolition job in the 1973 Belmont Stakes is a classic, while Arkle’s 1964 Gold Cup and Sea Bird’s extraordinary six-length routing of an international field at the 1965 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe are other examples.