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What is a Horse Race?

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horse race

In a horse race, the winner gets a certain amount of prize money. The word also has a more general meaning, often used to refer to any close form of competition. For example, the phrase a political horse race refers to the way in which mudslinging and attack ads make it difficult for people to focus on the issues that are really at stake in a particular contest.

At the walking ring, Mongolian Groom’s coat looked bright and rippling. Bettors like to look at a horse’s coat before a race, examining it for signs of fear or anger. Then the bettor decides whether to bet on that horse. If a horse balks, it is not going to run and will be taken out of the race.

The track was heavy, deep and slow. War of Will took the lead around the clubhouse turn, with McKinzie and Mongolian Groom right behind him. It would have been miserable for any horses to be in the middle of this pack.

But the crowd cheered anyway. The jockeys, wearing traditional robes and big leather belts with tassels, were incredibly skilled. They moved their mounts with huge strides and a hypnotic smoothness. The trainers were even better, using drugs that were new to racing officials. Powerful painkillers that worked for humans bled over into race preparation, along with antipsychotics and anti-epilepsy medications. And blood doping, which allowed a trainer to give his horse too many of the approved medications.

After the first few furlongs, however, it became obvious that this race was not a runaway. The front runners were tiring, and the horses in second and third were making their moves.

A few years ago, the stewards of horse races began to worry that some of these horses were doping. The official drug testing procedures for horse racing were not up to the task of catching all of the powerful drugs that were now entering the system. Drugs that could cause a horse to be hyperactive, or not respond to pain, or bleed profusely if they were injured. Antipsychotics, blood doping, antiepilepsy medications, growth hormones and a plethora of other potentially dangerous substances entered racing.

Some executives and governance observers are uncomfortable with the horse race approach to selecting a company’s next CEO. In this strategy, an overt competition is conducted among several high-level candidates with the goal of getting the best person in the job. But if the board is not careful, a horse race can become a chaotic, dysfunctional and unproductive process that may not produce the desired results for the company. The board should have a clear understanding of the capabilities of its current leadership, and determine whether an overt horse race is in the best interests of the organization. If not, the board should adopt a more structured process to select a new chief executive. This may include a succession plan that includes a series of critical roles through which future leaders can gain the competencies and seasoning they need for the top job.

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