A Day at the Races — The History of Horse Racing

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Horse racing is like no other sport. Not only does it involve multiple events in a day but you can also get close into the action in an exclusive way. Precisely, you can watch the horses jump out of the gate as they rush toward you to make the first turn.

You can also hear them pound up close and watch as they throw dirt behind to compete for the first position. It’s so much action that most people who attend a horse racing event come back at least once more time.

But do you know how the sport began? It’s often associated with royals and the rich. However, horse racing is a sport whose history includes people from all social backgrounds.

Traces of Racing in Ancient Times

Historians have regularly traced evidence of horse racing back to Babylonian Syrian, ancient Greece and Egypt. Back then, jockeys would sit in chariots and steer thorough breeds into races watched by hundreds of fans.

By 648 BC, horse racing was a sport began enough to be included in the Greek Olympics. At the time, mounted racing had also spread, although chariot racing was more popular.

Modern Horse Racing

Modern horse racing, which involves breeding horses for the sole purpose of racing, began in the 1200s and developed gradually to this date. It was mostly associated with knights and kings, hence its title as the sport of kings.

Horse riders were often soldiers and competed to flout their riding skills or for entertainment in front of large skills. Impromptu competitions were common, especially between chariot drivers and riders.

Established in the 1700s

Horse racing first became an established sport in England in the 1700s. Like modern-day sports, racing events were government by rules and penalties for those who disobeyed.

What’s more, racing also attracted local sponsors as well as bettors. And to safeguard its integrity, organizers hired skilled jockeys, expert breeders and trainers. In doing so, they also opened up prestigious careers for thousands of people back then.

The UK has maintained the integrity of horse racing to date. However, it has worked hard to improve the quality of breeding, training jockeys and in attracting high paying sponsors. Betting is still a part of the sport.

But unlike the 1700s; modern horse racing betting is run by regulated, professionally-managed bookmaker shops and websites. Horse racing is still deeply rooted to the sport as you can see on BestBettingSites.co.uk. The site also features a guide of how to choose online bookies.

The US Imports Horse Racing

The USA welcomed its first horse in around 1610. But it wasn’t until the 1700s that the country had enough horses to organize racing events. Racing grew popular in the 1800s as more and more breeders took to the street to compete in off-road races.

In 1867, the trotting horse register was created to form a standard of breeding racing horses. Essentially, the qualification was for a horse to race a mile in two and a half minutes.

The 1900s—the Growth of Breeding

At the start of 1900s, some horse breeds were so fast that they had little competition. A case in point is the Dan Patch, a horse that won nearly every competition with 5-10 seconds to spare consistently.

Unfortunately, betting fans didn’t have much luck in the US as nearly all states banned gambling around the same time. However, the development of the pari-mutuel wagering agreement saw an upswing in the number of racecourses emerging countrywide.

Dominant Breeds

Conventionally, breeders have favored specific horse breeds over others based on their strength and speed. These are some of the most popular breeds used for racing.

Arabian Horse

The Arabian horse is the most popular breed in racecourses. It’s exceptionally intelligent, easily trainable, beautiful, super fast and has incredible stamina. It’s been a popular racing breed since horse racing began, meaning it has also benefited from hundreds of years of research in breeding.

Thoroughbred Horse

The thoroughbred is the product of inter-breeding an Arabian with a mare, a barb and a Turkman stallion. It traces its name to the 1700s, back when English royals inter-bred the best breeds to produce superior racing horses.

Fortunately, thorough breeding works. Many thoroughbreds have long legs; they weigh more, have larger nostrils and have better racing features than pure breeds.

Quarter Horse

This breed traditionally specializes in quarter a mile races, hence its name. It’s pretty good at these races as it can peak at 88 KM per hour. It’s a tad shorter, smaller and lighter than thoroughbreds. But it packs immense power on its hind legs.

Standard bred Horse

Also known as a trotter, a standard racing breed does more than race a mile in two and half minutes. Thanks to their strong builds, these horses can also entertain and help in hunting.

The name “Standardbred” comes from early registration requirements. Where horses had to complete the one mile distance within a standard amount of time. Harness racing developed as a sport for the, “common man” and became an American tradition.

There are two different types of Standardbreds, the trotters and the pacers. The trot is a two beat diagonal gait and the pace is a lateral gait. In the pace both legs on one side move forward at the same time. Although many Standardbreds get their start on the track, they are not just race horses. Owners often remark on their docile personalities and big hearts.

Types of Horse Races

Flat Racing

These races take place on leveled surfaces. They include the Kentucky Derby in the US and the Cheltenham Festival in the UK. On average, a flat race is set at one to three miles and mainly involves thoroughbred horses.

Jump Racing

Also known as the national hunt, this type of racing features obstacles in which horses must overcome before they finish a race. They are incredibly popular in Ireland, France and the UK. Examples of jump races are the King George VI and the Betfair Chase event.

Endurance Racing

As the name suggests, endurance racing challenges horses to run for long miles or longer periods of time. It’s not as popular as flat racing due to the immense of time it takes. The Mongol derby, for example, involves 1000kms of racing.

Stake Racing

Stake racing features the very best horses and jockeys. It also comes with irresistible cash prizes. To qualify, jockeys and horses have to work their way up the ladder by winning minor events.

Quarter Horse Racing

This event brings together the fastest horses to compete in a stretch of a quarter a mile. There are breeds that specialize in these events as we had mentioned. But beware the events don’t last more than a minute.