Saddle Up: The Evolution Of Horse Racing

Horse racing is a billion-dollar industry with millions of fans worldwide. It has come a long way from B.C. chariot races. Discover more here.

Saddle Up: The Evolution Of Horse Racing

Horse racing is elegant, respected, and conflicted. Some people still argue that horse racing is unethical, yet it is still one of the most popular betting sports in the world. It’s a billion-dollar industry that attracts thousands of people in crowds. Whether or not you follow it, the history of race horsing and the industry developing into the one we know today is fascinating. Keep reading to explore the evolution of horse racing.

The Early Days

Horse racing has taken centuries to develop into the sport we know it as today. The earliest recollections of horse racing are likely not documented. But, in 700-40 B.C., the Greeks held Olympic Games with four-hitch chariots and mounted races.

Many thousands of years later, King Charles II started the King’s Plates, in which people would race for prizes. His races are the earliest recollections of national racing rules, arguably building the backbone for the racing rules we know today.

By the 18th century, there was such a high demand for public horse racing that open events came to fruition. The events had eligibility rules, much like the ones we know today, based on age, birthplace, sex of the horse, and past performances. Only horses that hadn’t won a certain number of races could enter.

When looking at the timeline, a rapid evolution occurred between the late 1700s to early 1900s. They replaced most heat races with dashes for three-year-olds. The race dashes could be any length, and the winner decided on one heat rather than 4. By the early 19th century, the classic English race of dashes for three-year-olds with specific weight levels went global. Now, much of the world follows the dash format for horse racing.

Horse Racing and Gambling

Horse racing and gambling are likely to have been linked from the beginning of their existence. Even dating back to the ancient Greek Olympics, there will have been some betting in play. However, one of the earliest records of horse race betting was in the 1600s. There were no legal betting stations, but under the table, betting happened frequently. 

It wasn’t until the 1600s that horse racing made its way to America, thanks to English settlers. By 1868, the introduction of the American Stud Book — the official breed registry for thoroughbred horses — meant the industry boomed. The Jockey Club — the first organization in America to regulate horseracing — set soft rules in 1984 that governed betting. They consequently became the birthplace of horse race betting in the U.S.

Now, horse racing and gambling go hand in hand. Most people who place bets don’t know what they’re betting on; they’re just betting because it is almost part of horse racing culture. Horse racing even influences online casinos. The top-ranked horse racing slot games have lucrative medium-high volatility, just like betting on the live races. Whether winning or not, something is exciting about gambling on horse racing, coupled with the thrill of a fast-paced race that leaves you wanting more.

Modern Horse Racing

Although the U.K. is the birthplace of horse racing — home to the Royal Ascot, Scottish Grand National, and Cheltenham races — horse racing in the U.S. has grown to be immensely popular. The atmosphere and class of the Kentucky Derby mirror that of U.K. races. The Kentucky Derby is, without a doubt, the best race in the entire world. Most of the world’s most decorated horses head to Louisville to charge to the finish line, many of which win millions in prize money and sponsorships for doing so.

Like the U.K., there are many magnificent horse racing events throughout the year, from the Belmont Stakes to the Breeders Cup. Many people in the U.S. are drawn to horse racing, just like people in the U.K. are, thanks to betting. Horse race betting is one of the most significant economic aspects of horse racing in the U.S. Interestingly, gambling as a whole in the U.S. was legal aside from horse race betting.

The Most Famous Horses

To understand how successful horse racing is as an industry, it’s worth looking at the sale of some of the most famous and decorated racehorses. One of the most famous racehorses is the Fusaichi Pegasus, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2000. He sold for over $70 million. It’s an eye-watering fee that shows how far people will go to secure a champion racehorse.

In terms of the most famous, Red Rum is at the top of the list. Red Rum has achieved what many other horses couldn’t throughout his career. Despite being born with an incurable bone disease, he won three grand nationals in the U.K., two consecutive. On the two occasions, he didn’t win; he still came second. He retired successfully in 1978, and his legacy lives on.

Horse racing continues to be a popular sporting and social event around the world. Getting dressed up and going to the races is a tradition that many countries around the world honor. In the U.S., horse racing is a well-respected sport that grows in popularity each year. But it has to be said – the British kick-started the tradition that spread around the world.


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