Why Horse Racing is Not as Popular in the US as in the UK


Horse racing is a time-honored sport, the history of which can be traced to the earliest human civilizations. Evidence suggests men have been racing horses since the days of Persia, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. The fascinating thing about the sport, however, is that it has remained a consistent staple of racing events since the Ancient world. And while the rules and regulations for the sport have changed, its popularity has remained. 

The horse racing which we are familiar with today was established in the Victorian era, in the United Kingdom. And it is perhaps for that reason that the UK is considered the hub of horse racing. Most of the top tier events are held in England, most of the best horses come from Great Britain and Ireland, and most of the best trainers were born on the island. It is also where horse race betting is most popular. 

So, with a sport this popular and ancient, the question is simple. Why is horse racing not as popular in the United States of America? The answer is long and complex, so let’s get into it. 

Lack of Betting Options

First thing is first. The main reason behind why horse racing isn’t as popular is because there are fewer betting options in the United States. In the United Kingdom, online bookies are legal, and very popular in fact. And every single UK-based website covers the big-name horse racing events. Most even cover the lesser-known, local events. 

In the USA, things are not that simple. First of all, you will find that some states still don’t allow online sports betting. And even the ones that do might not have what you are looking for. You see, not all sites allow you to bet online on horse racing in the United States. 

The reason for this is quite complex. It has to do with a late-20th century law, which separates betting on horses from sports betting, as two separate systems. For that reason, many bookies don’t bother getting licenses for horse racing, and only focus on played sports, like football, basketball, etc.

“Horse Racing Isn’t a Sport”

Another reason for the lack of popularity is simply that many Americans are not interested in the ponies. But why is that? Well, this disinterest stems from quite a few misunderstandings in regards to the sport. One of them is that horse racing isn’t even a sport, and shouldn’t be considered one in the first place. So, is that a fair assessment? We think not. 

Yes, the main athletes in horse racing aren’t the humans. However, race horses are still put through rigorous training and exercise in order to maintain a level of physical excellence. But, it isn’t just them. Jockeys to have to train daily, and go through a difficult regiment that will improve their skill and physique. It might interest some of you to know that, once injured, a jockey can have lasting consequences, and might have difficulties getting back in the saddle, just like any athlete.

“Horse Racing is for the Privileged Few”

Whether you think horse racing is a real sport or not is up to you. However, the second misunderstanding is patently false. And that is the idea that horse racing is an activity reserved for the rich and pretentious. Just take a look at the most popular UK-based horse racing tournaments, and you will find that most of the attendees are working class stiffs. The jockeys might be rich, but then, the same can be said for any athlete in a famous sport. Let’s not forget that Forbes publishes a list of the highest-paid athletes every year. And none of them are living day-to-day.

Final Say

The United Kingdom dominates the world of horse racing today. In terms of popularity the United States can’t even compare. However, this was not always the case. Back in the 20th century, horse racing was huge in the USA. Some of the most popular horses to ever live ran the Kentucky Derby. Certainly, most readers have heard names like the Secretariat, Sea Biscuit, War Admiral, and Red Rum. All these horses were America-bred champions whose name and influence still lives on. So, does this mean that one day, horse racing will reclaim its former glory? Perhaps, but until that day comes, we are happy to tune in to Cheltenham, and similar UK-based events.