Horse Racing The Sport Of Kings

Horse Racing The Sport Of Kings



Thousands of​ years ago, man discovered that an​ animal from the​ Equus order was good for​ carrying his burdens and​ lightening his load. Then one day, as​ the​ human race as​ a​ whole are natural competitors, we began to​ use that animal, called the​ horse, to​ race against others.

Then man began breeding 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, that "class" of​ people were the​ ones who most often enjoyed the​ leisure of​ competing in​ horse races.

Early picture records of​ horse racing were found in​ the​ origins of​ prehistoric nomadic tribesmen of​ Middle Asia. it​ was they who first domesticated the​ horse around 4500 B.C. the​ first written records came much later, after horse racing was already an​ established sport from Central Asia to​ the​ Mediterranean. Horse racing became a​ part of​ the​ Greek Olympics around 638 B.C. and​ the​ Roman Empire was obsessed with the​ sport.

Modern racing traces its roots back to​ the​ 12th century. Knights of​ the​ British Empire imported Arabic horses upon their return from the​ Crusades. in​ the​ years that followed, hundreds of​ Arab stallions were crossbred 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​ staging competitions between two superior Thoroughbred horses for​ private wagers, as​ a​ diversion.

As the​ sport evolved to​ being more professional during the​ reign of​ Queen Anne in​ the​ early 18th century, one-on-one races gave way to​ events in​ which several horses competed. Racetracks offered purses, or​ prize money to​ the​ winner of​ the​ events. and​ those purses grew larger in​ order to​ attract the​ best horses.

During the​ mid-1700s, it​ was decided that there needed to​ be a​ governing body to​ determine the​ rules and​ standards by which racers, breeders, and​ owners must abide. as​ a​ result the​ Jockey Club was established in​ Newmarket, and​ still exercises complete control over English racing to​ this day.

Once the​ Club established the​ complete rules and​ standards of​ the​ horses and​ the​ races which could be run under sanction of​ the​ Club, five races were designated as​ the​ "classic" races for​ three-year-old horses. the​ English Triple Crown - which is​ open to​ both colts and​ fillies - consists of​ the​ 2000 Guineas, the​ Epsom Derby, and​ the​ St. Leger Stakes. Two other races, which are open only to​ fillies, are the​ 1000 Guineas and​ the​ Epsom Oaks.

As the​ British settled in​ America, they brought very fine breeding stock and​ racing horses with them. the​ first known racetrack in​ the​ Colonies was on Long Island in​ New York. it​ was first laid out around 1665. Though horse racing was a​ popular local event, organized and​ professional racing did not actually start until after the​ Civil War. From there, the​ sport escalated in​ popularity across the​ settled parts of​ the​ country. and​ many of​ the​ racetracks were run by the​ "criminal element." as​ this was quite undesirable to​ the​ more prominent track owners and​ breeders, they met in​ New York in​ 1894 and​ formed the​ American Jockey Club. They soon 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 run in​ 1875. Its home is​ at​ the​ Churchill Downs in​ Louisville, Kentucky. it​ is​ one of​ the​ three races which make up the​ American Triple Crown. the​ other two are the​ Belmont Stakes, first run on Long Island, New York at​ Jerome Park in​ 1867, and​ the​ Preakness Stakes, first run in​ 1873 at​ Pimlico Park in​ Baltimore, Maryland.

Although interest has waxed and​ waned over the​ years, horse racing is​ the​ second-most attended spectator sport in​ the​ United States, outranked only by baseball.

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

- the​ steeplechase, which requires the​ horse to​ clear such obstacles as​ brush fences, stone walls, rail fences, and​ water jumps. the​ oldest and​ most famous steeplechase in​ Great Britain is​ England's Grand National. it​ was first run in​ Aintree in​ 1839, and​ continues even today. the​ most famous in​ the​ United States is​ the​ American National. it​ was first run in​ 1899 at​ Belmont Park and​ continues to​ be held there annually.

- Hurdle racing is​ similar to​ the​ steeplechase, but is​ much less demanding. it​ is​ often use as​ a​ training arena for​ Thoroughbreds who will later compete in​ steeplechases.

- Point-to-point races are generally run by amateurs throughout the​ British Isles.

- and​ last but by no means least is​ harness racing, which was very popular during the​ Roman Empire. Once the​ Empire fell the​ sport all but vanished until its resurrection, by those who liked to​ race their horses in​ harness on the​ country roads of​ America, at​ the​ end of​ the​ 1700s. the​ first official tracks for​ harness racing came about in​ the​ early 1800s, and​ by 1825 harness racing became a​ favorite attraction at​ country fairs all across the​ U.S.

Out of​ the​ rebirth of​ harness racing, a​ new breed of​ horse was born. in​ 1788, an​ outstanding English Thoroughbred stallion was imported to​ the​ United States. He was bred with American Thoroughbred and​ mixed-breed mares to​ establish the​ line of​ Standardbred. the​ name is​ based on the​ "standard" distance of​ one mile in​ harness racing speed. the​ descendants of​ this line were rebred over the​ years to​ create this new breed which has the​ stamina, temperament, and​ physical size and​ structure to​ endure racing under harness.

Although harness racing suffered a​ decline of​ popularity again in​ the​ early 1900s, it​ bounced back in​ 1940 after being reintroduced at​ a​ raceway in​ New York as​ a​ pari-mutuel betting event. Its number of​ tracks and​ scheduled annual events outnumber those 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 segued over the​ years to​ encompass people of​ all lifestyles and​ income. it​ remains, however, a​ sport quite often associated with the​ "well-to-do", those who can afford the​ vast expenditure involved with raising the​ standard of​ horse required to​ run in, and​ win, the​ large purses awarded by, the​ most popular horse-racing events around the​ world.




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