racetrack

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racetrack

1. a circuit or course, esp an oval one, used for motor racing, speedway, etc.
2. chiefly US and Canadian a long broad track, usually of grass, enclosed between rails, and with starting and finishing points marked upon it, over which horses are raced

Racetrack

 

an area for harness and flat racing and horse shows; the racetrack itself and the organization that runs the events are both called ippodrom (“hippodrome”) in Russian.

A racetrack consists of a circular track and racecourse, a building with spectator stands along the final lap, and a judge’s tower at the finish line. Inside the track there are smaller rings for various equestrian events and a ring with hurdles for the steeplechase. Not far from the stands is the paddock, a fenced-off area where the horses are exercised and saddled. There are also outlying buildings and offices, including a covered riding school, stables, a forge, a veterinary hospital, and a quarantine area.

Arenas for racing and equestrian events have been known since antiquity; there were hippodromes in Greece and Rome long before the Common Era. Usually long and rectangular, the hippodromes were curved at one end; the course for the chariot races was divided by a wall down the center. The spectator stands rose above the concourse. The largest hippodrome of the classical era, in Constantinople (203–330), was vaulted and mul-titiered.The hippodromes in Rome and later in Byzantium were centers for social as well as sports events.

In Russia the first racecourse for horse racing was built in 1826 in Lebedian’, Tambov Province. In 1834 a racetrack was built in Moscow for saddle and harness racing; the track and spectator stands were redesigned by the architect I.G. Zholtov-skii in 1951–55.

Modern racetracks have either tracks or courses; some have both. Courses are usually designed for races at a fast gait, or gallop, with horse and jockey; tracks are usually designed for trotters and for draft horses that race pulling a specified load. Saddle horses, trotters, and workhorses all can run at combined racetracks such as the one in Moscow, which has an area of approximately 40 hectares; approximately 1,200 horses compete there annually.

Racetracks are oval as a rule, while racecourses are laid out in the shape of an oval, a figure eight, or the letter P. The tracks are arranged either concentrically (one inside the other) or adjacently. Most racetracks have evenly contoured circular tracks. A few have bumps and slopes that increase the difficulty of the race—for example, Vincennes outside Paris, the Hoppegarten in Berlin (German Democratic Republic), and the Warsaw Racetrack. Large ones have several tracks: the Moscow Racetrack has four; the outer one is a course and the three others are tracks laid out concentrically inside the first. A turf track is best for racehorses, and a springy, elastic course (rubber bitumen or tartan) is best for trotters.

Tracks are usually 2,000, 2, 400, or 3,000 m long and harness courses, 1,600 m. In the USA and several European countries tracks are 804.5 m (1/2 mile) and 1, 005.5 m (5/8 mile). The track is 20–30 m wide, and the course 20–25 m wide. In winter, races are run on icy tracks, and the horses are shod with special shoes that have sharp nails.

Many racetracks carry on research in horse breeding. Large racetracks have betting windows, where bets are placed and money paid out for the winning horses at flat or harness racing. Abroad, the betting aspect of racetracks is of primary importance.

There are numerous racetracks throughout the world, attracting an impressive number of racehorses and harness horses. The most important modern racetracks are Moscow Racetrack (USSR; largest number of racehorses per year); the track at Lexington, Ky. (USA); Newmarket and Epsom Downs (Great Britain); and Vincennes and Longchamps (France). The Zarzuela Racetrack in Madrid (Spain) is known for its unusual stands of reinforced concrete (1935; E. Torrox and others).

B. N. POPOV and A. P. GALLI

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