An introduction to horse racing.
Horse racing has been a popular sport for thousands of years, and today it remains to be a beloved pastime for many across the globe. People gather at their favorite racetracks to see the fastest horses compete.
It is one of the oldest sports, with an origin that dates back as far as 4500 BC in Central Asia. It has become a tradition among multiple cultures across the world, and by the 12th century, modern horse racing as we know it had its start.
To this day, flat racing is the most popular type of racing, although jump and harness races are also very popular. The most common type of horse to participate in races are Thoroughbreds, although Quarterhorses and Standardbreds are also known for racing as well.
And with that knowledge already, let’s give you a wild ride with some horse racing facts that we doubt you already knew!
- The Sport of Kings!
Horse racing is known as being the sport of kings. Back in 1605, King James I took a big interest in the sport, so much that the Parliament at the time urged him to refocus on his duty as a King.
He proceeded to establish Newmarket as a royal resort and held horse racing events there. His son then made this into the headquarters of British racing as the sport continued to grow in the western world. Horse racing gained oodles of popularity among aristocrats and the royalty, hence it then earned the nickname ‘ The Sport of Kings’. Because, it literally was.
- It’s older than you know.
Horse racing actually dates back to around 4500 BC, although it could be older, when nomadic tribesmen of Central Asia who are credited with the domestication of horses, raced them for fun as a competitive sport. Later in 1000 BC the Greeks began racing their two wheeled chariots, and this then became a popular sporting pastime with the Egyptians, and Romans, who began running races with horse-drawn chariots.
By 664 BC, the 33rd Olympiad was held and horseback racing was an official sport with riders being known as jockeys, just as we have known them today. Romans took horse racing to Britain during the Common Era, and then Britain brought it to America later on. And as so, the sport grew.
- Horse race betting has kept it alive.
Betting on horse racing is a big part of what has kept the sport alive. Just picture Julius Cesar betting on his favorite horse. Wagering on the outcomes of races has always been a large part of what has attracted people to the sport, and wagering is why it continues to be a major part of the sporting world today. It may well not have survived without it.
Today, you can look at the tvg odds for breeders cup. Cesar and the Romans did not have TVG to tell them the odds, but with the internet today, we can bet on the races just like they did all other thousands of years ago.
- All thoroughbreds share the same birthday.
Despite what day they are actually born, Thoroughbreds all share a common birthday. Thoroughbreds born in the Northern Hemisphere will have the birthday January 1st, whereas in the Southern Hemisphere it will be August 1st.
This rule is put in place to keep better track of a horse’s age. Several of the biggest races have an age limit on horses, giving horses only one chance of winning it. An example of this is that a horse in the Kentucky Derby has to be three years old.
Breeders will try to breed their horses, so they are born as close to these dates as possible, to give the horses more time to develop and mature before they start their career.
- The oldest horse race in the world- The Kiplingcotes.
The Kiplingcotes Derby is the oldest horse race in the world, dating back to 1590. It keeps up with tradition and must be run every year or cancelled forever. This Derby takes place in Yorkshire, England. It is a four-mile racetrack of farm track and field, and there is no age limit on horses.
Over its 500-year history, there have only been four times when it has not had a full card, once in 2020 due to Covid-19, where only 2 riders took part, but they raced it meaning it would not have to be cancelled forever.
- The first horse racetrack in America dates back to 1665.
America also has a long history of horse racing, in the U.S. the horse racing history is actually older than the country itself, with the oldest racetrack dating back to the 1600s. In 1665 the first racetrack Newmarket opened up in Long Island. Although racing was popular in the local area, it wasn’t until 1868 that it really took off. In 1868 the American Studbook was also begun.
Horse racing and gambling on them began getting popular in 1890, with 314 tracks in operation in the U.S.
- Not just anyone can jockey.
Although being a jockey is an exciting career, not anyone can be a jockey. Individuals who want to jockey need to be at least 18 years old to get their jockey license.
Weight is an important aspect of racing too, and jockeys will often weigh around 108lbs to 118 lbs. Despite there being no actual height limit, you have probably heard the idea that jockeys should be short, and this is because most jockeys are between 4’10” and 5’6”, and of course they need plenty of experience with horses and knowledge of racing.
A majority of jockeys will get their start through a horse racing apprenticeship, or by getting a degree at the North American racing Academy. This is located in Kentucky, and it is the only school in the country which is just for jockeys. They have a two-year program, and you need at least a school diploma or GED and experience riding and training horses to attend.