What is a Horse Race?

horse race

Horse race is a term that has been used for centuries to refer to a close contest, often between two or more horses. It has evolved from a primitive contest of speed or stamina to an intricate sport with elaborate electronic monitoring equipment and enormous sums of money at stake, but its basic concept remains unchanged. As a sports activity, it is considered to be one of the oldest and most closely watched of all entertainment events.

The classic succession “horse race” pits several senior executives against each other in a battle to be the next chief executive officer, with the winner taking over. Some governance observers are uneasy about this approach, but others point out that it has worked well in a number of highly admired companies. A key to success is ensuring that the board and current CEO have a clear understanding of the capabilities of all of the candidates, as well as strategies that can minimize the impact on the organization during the contest.

As they paraded out of their barns and into the paddock before the race began, each of the eleven horses looked dejected. They had just finished a hard day’s work, and all of them were thirsty. Each had been injected that morning with Lasix, the drug that’s noted on the racing form with a boldface L. The drug’s function is to prevent pulmonary bleeding that can occur during hard running. As the horses stumbled and stumbled down the backstretch, they shed epic amounts of urine—twenty or thirty pounds of it.

By the time they reached the clubhouse turn, War of Will, the favorite, had taken a strong lead, followed by Mongolian Groom and McKinzie, with Vino Rosso in fourth. The crowd roared and cheered, but it was the jockeys on each horse who were most excited.

In the last hundred yards, the pack started to whittle itself down as each horse gave its all. War of Will maintained his lead, with Mongolian Groom and McKinzie fighting for second place. Vino Rosso, the chestnut colt on the outside, moved up to take third at the top of the stretch.

Despite the fact that they were surrounded by tens of thousands of people who were yelling at them to go faster, the horses kept moving with that hypnotic smoothness that is so distinctive to thoroughbred racing. Eventually, the two leaders came together for an explosive finish. It was a nail-biter, and it was the favorite who won. As with any horse race, the winner—or losers—had a long, lingering effect on the competition and the organization. Depending on how the race was conducted, it can affect the ability of future executives to compete effectively and collaborate with colleagues. It can also have a profound effect on the culture of an organization. It can even affect the overall strategy of an entire industry. That’s why, for the sake of both the company and its future leaders, it is vital to understand the consequences of a horse race.