History of Organized Racing

From Ancient to Modern Horse Racing

Horse Racing History

Horse racing is an ancient sport with its roots dating back to the Ancient times of Greece, Babylon, Syria, and Egypt. It is one of the oldest of all sports, and the basic concepts involved have gone virtually unchanged over the course of time. The sport involves running horses at speed, mainly Thoroughbred with a rider astride or Standardbreds with the horse pulling a conveyance with a driver. These two variations of the event are called racing on the flat and harness racing.

The first recorded race in history was lost. Both four-hitch chariot and mounted races were held at the Olympic Games in Greece over the period 700-40 BCE—suggesting that horse racing was one of the most popular sporting events ever since.

The history of organized racing in other fields of civilizations is not firmly established as well. But some say that organized racing started in countries including Arabia, China, Persia, and other countries residing in the Middle East and North Africa, where horsemanship developed early on.

Since then, the activity has emerged as a globally renowned sporting event that has captured the interest of millions of bettors around. It advanced from a primitive competition of speed and stamina between horses into a spectacle involving a large field of runners, state-of-the-art monitoring equipment, and boatloads of money, but its essential feature has remained the same:  the horse that crosses the finish line first is the winner. In the modern horse racing era, horse racing transitioned from a pastime into a colossal public entertainment business.

The Birth of Organized Racing

Charles II (reigned 1660-85) was known to be “the father of the English turf” and commenced the King’s Plates, races where prizes were awarded to the winners. His articles for these races were becoming the backbone of national racing rules.

Meanwhile, in France, the first documented race was held in the mid-1600 as a result of a wager between two individuals. During the reign of Louis XIV, racing based on betting was predominant. Louis XVI organized a jockey club and set rules of racing that included requiring certificates of origin for horses and adding weight on non-domestic horses.

Organized racing in North America started with the British occupation of New Amsterdam in 1664. Col. Richard Nicolls, established organized racing in the colonies by laying out a 2-mile track on the plains of Long Island and offering a silver cup to the tip horses—the event occurred during spring and fall seasons.

Modern Racing

The beginning of modern racing began in the English classic races: the St.Leger in 1776, Oaks in 1779, and the Derby in 1780. All features three-year-old horses. These races were later introduced to the Two Thousand Guineas in 1809 alongside the One Thousand Guineas in 1814, Moreover, the St.Leger, Derby, and Two Thousand Guineas have come to constitute the British Triple Crown of horse racing. During the 19th century, races of the English classic pattern were acknowledged around the world.

The American classics spotlight the Belmont Stakes, Preakness Stakes, and the Kentucky Derby, which make up the American Triple Crown. Since the construction of the British and American Triple Crown series, other countries have introduced their own rendition of Triple Crowns of elite races.