Horse racing is a sport in which horses compete for a prize. It has been around since ancient times and was a popular pastime in civilizations from Greece to Egypt, Rome, Babylon, Syria, and Arabia. Its basic concept remains unchanged, though it has evolved from a primitive contest of speed or stamina into a spectacle with fields of runners and sophisticated electronic monitoring equipment.
Horse races are usually run on a dirt or grass track that can vary in size, shape, and surface, but all feature an oval-shaped course with a starting gate, a finish line, and a number of turnouts. A horse is attached to a jockey who is responsible for steering it through the race, maintaining control of it at high speeds, and urging it on to win the race.
In order to win a race, a horse must cross the finish line first before its rivals do. Those that come in second and third are awarded a certain amount of money, while those that do not make the cut are considered dead heats. In some instances, the winner of a race may be determined by a photo finish. This is a process in which stewards, or officials, carefully examine a photograph of the finish line to determine which horse broke the plane of the finish line first.
The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, for example, is an annual horse race held in Paris that is widely regarded as one of the world’s top sports events. Its prize money is more than $10 million.
However, behind the romanticized facade of Thoroughbred horse racing lies a dark world of broken bones and drug abuse. This is because the horses used to run these races are forced to sprint-often under the threat of whips, and even illegal electric shock devices-at speeds that can cause gruesome breakdowns and hemorrhage from the lungs.
When a company runs a horse race to choose its next CEO, it can have significant consequences for the organization. For instance, a protracted succession horse race can drain the energy of the rest of the board and weaken the company’s ability to fill key management roles. Some directors, particularly those who are sensitive to the mounting scrutiny of their companies, are especially keenly aware that a prolonged horse race can lead to a loss of business momentum and work diligently to limit its length.
In some cases, a horse race can also have an unintended consequence: by making the selection of the new CEO a highly public affair, it can alienate the rest of the senior-level executive team. This can create tensions and acrimony that may last for months or even years after the winner has been announced. As a result, many companies that use the horse race approach work mightily to avoid this problem.