Horse racing is one of the world’s oldest sports. Its basic contest of speed and stamina between two horses has evolved from a primitive contest to a multi-billion dollar global business. Today, it includes high-tech electronic monitoring equipment and huge sums of money for the top finishers. But its basic principle has remained unchanged throughout the centuries: The horse that crosses the finish line first is declared the winner.
Behind the romanticized facade of horse races lies a cruel world of injuries, drugs and gruesome breakdowns. While spectators wear fancy outfits and sip mint juleps, the race horses are forced to sprint—often under the threat of whips and even illegal electric shockers—to achieve speeds that can cause hemorrhage in their lungs. The sport has a long history of cruelty, and it is often compared to the slave trade in terms of its brutality.
In medieval England, professional riders—known as jockeys—demonstrated their horse’s speed by racing them. These early races, which took place on open fields and roads, usually lasted less than a mile. The owners of each horse put up a fixed amount of money before the race, which became known as a purse. The owner who won the race took the entire purse, while those who withdrew forfeited half. These agreements were recorded by disinterested third parties, who came to be called keepers of match books.
The most famous horse race in the world is probably the Kentucky Derby, which has been held annually since 1875. This prestigious event is attended by tens of thousands of people who crowd the infield and Millionaires Row to watch the contestants saunter across the finish line. The race is also the most popular betting event in the world, with bettors placing wagers on the winning horse.
Another great race is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, which has been run since 1920. It is considered one of the most prestigious events in European racing, and it is regarded as one of the greatest races in the world. In fact, many believe that the Prix de l’Arc is the best race of all time.
While some executives and governance observers may be uncomfortable with a horse race—which pits several senior executives in an overt competition for a specific position within an established time frame—others have found this approach to be effective for selecting the next leader of their company. However, it is important for those considering a horse race to consider a number of factors before beginning the process. In addition to selecting the right candidates, it is crucial that the company establish a robust succession plan to ensure that future leaders can fill critical roles without interruption. The best way to do this is by using a leadership development program that exposes promising employees to a variety of critical challenges in order to help them attain the necessary skills and experience. Then, they can be prepared to take on the challenge of leading a successful organization.