Horse racing – The sport of kings

Thousands of years ago man discovered that an animal of the order Equus was good at carrying burdens and lightening his load. Then one day, as the human race as a whole is a natural competitor, we started using this animal, called the horse, to race against others.

Then man began to breed horses to excel in speed and endurance. When this new type of entertainment and sport began to evolve, it was the nobility, or royalty, who could afford the expense of breeding horses for this purpose. Therefore, this “class” of people was the one that most often enjoyed the leisure of participating in horse racing.

The earliest records of horse racing images have been found in the origins of prehistoric nomadic tribes in Central Asia. They were the ones who domesticated the horse for the first time around 4500 BC. Horse racing became part of the Greek Olympics around 638 BC. AD And the Roman Empire was obsessed with this sport.

Modern races find their roots in the 12th century. The knights of the British Empire imported Arabian horses when they returned from the crusades. In the years that followed, hundreds of Arabian stallions were crossed with English mares to give the most desirable combination of speed and endurance. This breed of horse became known, after its evolution, as the thoroughbred and of course the nobility were leaders in organizing competitions between two superior thoroughbred horses for private bets, as a diversion.

As the sport evolved to become more professional during the reign of Queen Anne in the early 18th century, head-to-head racing gave way to events in which multiple horses competed. The racetracks offered purses or cash prizes to the winner of the events. And these purses grow to attract the best horses.

In the mid-1700s, it was decided that a governing body was needed to determine the rules and standards to which racers, breeders and owners must adhere. As a result, the Jockey Club was established in Newmarket and still exercises full control over English racing to this day.

After the Club established the full rules and standards of horses and races that could be raced under Club sanction, five races were designated as “classic” races for three-year-old horses. The English Triple Crown – which is open to colts and fillies – includes the 2000 Guineas, the Epsom Derby and the St. Leger Stakes. Two other races, open only to fillies, are the 1000 Guineas and the Epsom Oaks.

When the British settled in America, they brought with them very good breeding stock and race horses. The first known racetrack in the Colonies was on Long Island in New York. It was first laid out around 1665. Although horse racing was a popular local event, organized and professional racing did not begin until after the Civil War. From there, the sport grew in popularity in populated areas of the country. And many racetracks were run by the “criminal element”. As this was undesirable for the larger track owners and breeders, they met in New York in 1894 and formed the American Jockey Club. They quickly established rules and regulations, similar to those of the English Jockey Club, and quickly eliminated much of the corruption.

The Kentucky Derby, one of the best-known horse racing events in the United States, was first held in 1875. Its home is at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It is one of the three races that make up the American Triple Crown. The other two are the Belmont Stakes, first held in Long Island, New York, at Jerome Park in 1867, and the Preakness Stakes, first held in 1873 at Pimlico Park in Baltimore, Maryland.

Although interest has risen and fallen over the years, horse racing is the second most attended spectator sport in the United States, second only to baseball.

There are other forms of horse racing in Britain and the United States. These include:

– The steeplechase, which requires the horse to overcome obstacles such as brush fences, stone walls, rail fences and water jumps. Britain’s oldest and most famous steeplechase is the English Grand National. It was first performed at Aintree in 1839 and continues to this day. The most famous in the United States is the American National. It was first held in 1899 at Belmont Park and continues to be held there every year.

– Hurdle races are similar to steeplechase, but are much less demanding. It is often used as a training arena for Thoroughbreds who will later compete in obstacle races.

– Point to point races are usually run by amateurs throughout the British Isles.

– Last but not least, harness racing, which was very popular during the Roman Empire. After the Empire fell, the sport all but died out until its resurrection, by those who enjoyed racing their harnessed horses on America’s country roads, in the late 1700s. Harness racing originated in the early 1800s, and by 1825 harness racing had become a favorite attraction at national fairs across the United States.

From the revival of harness racing, a new breed of horse was born. In 1788, an exceptional English Thoroughbred stallion was imported to the United States. He was bred with American Thoroughbred and mixed-breed mares to establish the Standardbred line. The name is based on the “standard” distance of one mile in harness racing speed. Descendants of this line have been recreated over the years to create this new breed that has the stamina, temperament, physical size and structure to endure harness racing.

Although harness racing again suffered a decline in popularity in the early 1900s, it rebounded in 1940 after being reintroduced at a New York racetrack as a pari-mutuel betting event. Its number of tracks and scheduled annual events exceeds that of thoroughbred racing in the United States today. It has also gained popularity in many European countries, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

What was once almost exclusively “the sport of kings” has transformed over the years to encompass people of all lifestyles and incomes. It remains, however, a sport quite often associated with the “well-to-do”, those who can afford the vast expense necessary to raise the standard of horse required to race and win the big purses awarded by, the most popular horse racing events around the world. .

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