Today there are many types of races: Cars, trucks, planes, boats, marathons for runners and joggers, downhill races and many more.  This article deals with the sport known as "sport of kings".

After 1000 years ago, man discovered that an animal of the Order of Equus was good for carrying his load and lightening his burden. Then, one day, because the entire human race is a natural competitor, we began to use this animal, which we called a horse, to race against others. 



Then man began to breed horses that would be characterized by speed and endurance.  As this new form of entertainment and sport began to develop, it was the nobility or royalty who could afford to breed horses for this purpose.  As a result, this "class" of people was the one who most often enjoyed the leisure time of participating in horse races. 

The first images of horse racing were found in the origins of the prehistoric nomadic tribes of Central Asia.  It was they who first domesticated the horse around 4500 BC. The first written records appeared much later, after horse racing had become an established sport from Central Asia to the Mediterranean.  Horse racing was part of the Greek Olympic Games around 638 BC, and the Roman Empire was obsessed with the sport. 

Modern racing dates back to the 12th century.  The Knights of the British Empire imported Arabian horses after their return from the Crusades.  In the following years hundreds of Arabian stallions were crossed with English mares to achieve the most desirable combination of speed and endurance.  This breed of horse became known after its development as a thoroughbred horse, and of course the nobility was leading the way in organizing competitions between two superior thoroughbred horses for private betting, as a diversion. 

As the sport became more professional under Queen Anne in the early 18th century, individual races gave way to events involving several horses.  On the race tracks, the winners of the events were offered wallets or cash prizes.  And these purses grew to attract the best horses. 

In the mid-1700s it was decided that a regulatory body was needed to set the rules and standards that racers, breeders and owners had to follow.  As a result, the Jockey Club was founded in Newmarket, which still today has complete control over English racing. 

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

When the British moved to America, they brought some very good breeding animals and racehorses.  The first known race track in the colonies was on Long Island, New York.  It was first built around 1665.  Although horse racing was a popular local event, organized and professional races did not begin until after the Civil War.  From then on the popularity of the sport increased in the populated areas of the country.  And many horse racing tracks were run by "criminal elements". Since this was not at all desirable for the most important track owners and breeders, they met in New York in 1894 and founded the American Jockey Club. 

The Kentucky Derby, one of the most famous horse races in the United States, was first held in 1875.  It is held in the Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.  It is one of the three races that make up the American Triple Crown.  The other two are the Belmont Stakes, first held in 1867 in Long Island, New York, in Jerome Park, and the Preakness Stakes, first held in 1873 in Pimlico Park in Baltimore, Maryland. 

Although interest has increased and decreased over the years, horse racing is the second most popular spectator sport in the United States after baseball. 

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

- Steeplechase, where the horse has to overcome obstacles such as bush fences, stone walls, rail fences and water jumps.   The oldest and most famous steeplechase in Britain is the Grand National of England.  It was introduced at Aintree in 1839 and has continued until today.   The very famous in the US is the American National.  It was first held in Belmont Park in 1899 and is still held there every year. 

- The hurdle race is similar to the obstacle race, but is much less demanding.  It is often used as a training ground for thoroughbreds that later participate in obstacle races. 

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

- Finally, trotting racing, which was very popular during the Roman Empire, is also very popular.  After the fall of the Empire, the sport practically disappeared until it was revived at the end of the 1700s by those who enjoyed trotting races on the country roads of America.  The first official circuits for trotting races were established in the early 19th century, and by 1825 trotting races had become a popular attraction at popular festivals throughout the United States. 

The rebirth of harness racing brought forth a new breed of horse.  In 1788 an excellent English thoroughbred stallion was imported into the United States.  He was bred to American Thoroughbred and cross-bred mares to establish the standard breeding line.  The name is based on the "standard" distance of one mile at trotting speed.  The offspring of this line have been re-bred over the years to create this new breed that has the endurance, temperament, size and physical structure to support trotting. 

Although trotting experienced a further decline in popularity in the early 1900s, it recovered in 1940 after being reintroduced at a New York City racetrack as a pari-mutuel competition.  Today, the number of scheduled tracks and annual events exceeds the number of thoroughbred races in the United States.  It has also gained popularity in many European countries, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. 

What was once almost exclusively "the sport of kings" has evolved over the years into a sport that involves people of all lifestyles and income groups.  However, it remains a sport often associated with the "haves", i.e. those who can afford the considerable expenditure required to increase the horsepower needed to race and win the large purses awarded at the world's most popular horse races.


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