Thoroughbred racing has been around for hundreds of years and is one of the most popular horse racing genres in the world. It is governed by different national bodies. There are two forms of the sport – flat racing and jump racing, the latter known as National Hunt racing in the UK and steeplechasing in the US. The most popular of these is flat racing which involves horse racing on a flat racecourse. The tracks can be made of different surfaces including turf, dirt and the newly innovated Polytrack which is a mixture of sand, synthetic fibres and recycled rubber, coated in a microcrystalline wax.
The dawn of the sport
Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in human history dating back to ancient times in places such as Greece, Rome, Egypt and Babylon where it was a show of speed and stamina. Often the horses would not have a jockey and would run through towns and villages for a certain distance. Greece, especially, had a well-organized system for horse racing and had both chariot and mounted horse races in their Olympic games which were immensely popular with the general public. It is presumed that there were organized races in other countries as well such as China, Arabia and areas of North Africa. The skill of horse riders and their attention and care for horses in these places inevitably led to the sport of horse racing becoming a popular pastime.
Horse racing in England began when people who were selling their horses raced them to show off the speed and capability of the horses to potential buyers. The first known racing prize of 40 pounds was offered during the reign of King Richard the Lionheart. King Charles II became known as “the father of the English turf’’ and began the King’s Plates. There was prize money for the first rider to win two 4-mile races. Betting on horses was popular in France around this time and a jockey club was created by King Louis XVI to establish rules of horse racing.
Horse racing in Australia began in the mid-19th century with many major events being created which included the Melbourne Cup and the Sydney Cup. Horse racing is an important and popular sport in Australia, where the odds for the Railway Stakes, for example, are just as important as the Melbourne Cup or the Caulfield Cup.
Thoroughbred horses have delicate heads, slim bodies, broad chests, and short backs. Their short leg bones allow for a long, easy stride. They are sensitive and high-spirited and, if practically trained, loyal and consistent. Averaging 16 hands (64 inches, or 163 cm) high and weighing about 1,000 pounds (450 kg) at maturity, Thoroughbreds are usually bay, chestnut, brown, black, or grey. Known for their speed and stamina, they have been cross-bred with many breeds of horses to enhance their genetics. This makes them perfect for racing, especially for long sprints such as seen in races such as the Melbourne Cup which is 3200 metres and the Kentucky Derby which is 1 1⁄4 miles in length. Arabian and Turk horses became familiar to the Europeans during the crusades in the 11th -13th centuries and greatly contributed to European horse racing due to their impressive speed and stamina.
Horseracing has long been one of the most popular spectator sports in the world. It is known for being popular in high society and offers a world of thrill and excitement for all that choose to enjoy it.