What is horse racing?
Horse racing is considered a sport where two or more horses compete to see who will arrive first at a specific destination. The first to arrive at the finish line is determined to be the winner. The horses may have a rider (jockey) or not. It is also possible that the horse or horses may be attached to a chariot.
The history of horse racing
The history of horse racing goes back thousands of years and has remained basically the same in structure. This means whichever horse may arrive first at the predetermined finish line is the indisputable winner. We know that horse racing existed in Ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Egypt and Syria. The first actual mounted horse race took place at the Greek Olympics of 648 BC.
Chariot racing was very popular in the ancient world. Its drawback is that it is highly dangerous. All too often the riders lost their lives in competitions. Despite this, the public was fascinated by these events and they created much excitement. Even in ancient times placing bets on horses occurred and as we know is still popular today at horse races.
With the passage of time an interest developed in the creation of different breeds. The idea was to have horses that were specifically to be used just for racing. Of course there were horses used for various work tasks such as hauling goods, farming and combat in wars, but the development of horses such as thoroughbreds and special horses solely for racing caught on.
As you know this interest of breeding to find the fastest horse is still practiced today. In fact it is a highly profitable industry worldwide. The aristocracy in particular became interested in horse racing as it provided entertainment and it is because of this that it is known today as “The Sport of Kings.’
In the 1700’s in England horse racing became very popular and in 1750 the first Jockey Club was formed, and as a result rules were created for racing. This was an important development as it allowed betting to become more prevalent, and brought out all classes to see the races.
What also occurred is that a large part of the profits from betting were invested in racing activities which lead to new work opportunities such as more skilled jockeys, grooms for horses, and experts for breeding purposes. A result of this is that in the countryside where jobs were hard to find a new industry for employment emerged.
All that was established In England was imported into The USA, and that is why we now enjoy a horse racing interest and industry here today. An interesting fact is that horse racing is the only sport that remained open in Hong Kong and Australia in this recent pandemic; the racing continued, but there were no spectators on sight.
What are the different categories of horse racing?
We take a look at the most common types of worldwide horse racing today. Keep in mind that specific training is required for horses to participate in these racing events.
- Harness Racing is where horses pace or trot carrying behind them a scully (a small cart where the rider is seated.) All horse breeds can be trained for this.
- Jump or Jumps Racing is where horses race jumping over targeted obstacles.
- Flat Racing is where horses gallop in a straight line in an oval or straight track.
- Endurance Racing is where horses race anywhere between twenty five to one hundred miles. Special training is required for this.
- Saddle Racing is where a jockey on a saddle must have the horse trot a specific distance.
What are the breeds used for horse racing?
It is important to understand that the breeds for horse racing events must be compatible. There are experts who determine if breeds are compatible for a particular race. In some cases it is required to show a history of a horse’s bloodline and pedigree. For example the thoroughbred is used in the most important races; hence, all the horses in this race must be thoroughbreds and their lineage must be authenticated. We will take a look at the most important breeds used in horse racing.
- The Quarter horse is the result of the traditional English horse mateing with a Colonial Spanish horse in the USA.
- The Arabian horse is in a special league by itself which is a branch of the thoroughbred. It is considered to be the fastest horse.
- The Standardbred. These are bred from thoroughbreds mating with morgans and other breeds which are now extinct.They are very strong and steady and used for multiple purposes.
- The Thoroughbred can be traced back to one of three major male bloodlines: The Byerley Turk, The Darley Arabian and The Godolphin Arabian. These stallions mate with English mares and the foals are thoroughbred. They are considered to be the fastest of all breeds.
Horse racing in The USA today
The traditions today regarding horse racing were inherited from the British in the 1700’s. The first race was actually in1664 on Long Island in New York State. In 1868 “The American Stud Book “ was published tracing the lineage of thoroughbreds; it is still maintained today by The Jockey Club. This brought greater attention to horse racing and by 1890 there were 314 race tracks in the country.
Throughout the year there are many special horse races, competitions and tournaments all over the country. On the first Saturday in May The Kentucky Derby takes place and it is one of the most famous races in the country. There are also many other famous annual races each one having its own special focus.
The Thoroughbred Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs New York is an association that recognises outstanding horses, jockeys and achievements in the world of thoroughbred racing. The procedures for betting on horse races are dictated by each individual state and vary according to state laws.
Some interesting facts about horse racing
Having been a favored sport for centuries there are some interesting facts about horse racing that we thought you should know.
- The famous Grand Slam of Thoroughbred Horse Racing Award was only won once by American Pharoah in 2015
- In 1973 Secretariat won the Triple Crown for being the fastest horse of recorded time
- The highest price paid for a race horse is seventy million dollars; the horse was purchased by an Irish buyer and is Fasai Pegasus (born 1997)
- The fastest speed ever recorded for a race horse is 43.97 MPH in 2008
- In England today horse racing is the second most attended sport event
- The first race track in America was established in 1665
- Today in the USA horse racing is a 36.6 billion dollar industry
As we have learned, horse racing has always been a part of human history. Mankind has always both lived with and loved the horse. It is amazing that up to today and from many milenia past we have revered this animal. If it is races, tournaments, rodeos or horse shows today the horse remains one of our most favored animals that brings us so much joy.