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The History of Horse Racing

Author: Skyla Burrell

This writer’s fist experience at a horse racing track ended up being one of my favorite memories of all time. My best friend and I went to Santa Anita Racetrack in Southern California. She was dating a Vet at the time who worked for the track and scored us fancy seats with white tablecloths waiters and even the cast of Beverly Hills 90210 at the next table. I knew not how to bet, wagered on the cute names and lost big time. On the way out I almost knocked Micky Rooney down a flight of steep cement stairs, much to my horror. He was funny about it, remarking how I did not know him well enough to try and kill him yet. The laughs did not end that night as we ended up at the Turf Club having dinner with Mel Brooks and Ann Bancroft. Hard to top that one I think as an introduction to the world of horse racing.

We have all seen the epic films depicting the Romans and Egyptians racing glorious chariots, so one would assume that was the start of the sport we know today but really, the modern sport of organized horse racing began in 1149. Commonly referred to as ‘the sport of kings’ this organized version of the sport traces its origins back to a long line of kings with the name of Henry in England. The events were referred to at the time as Henry’s Hobby’s and were basically pony races amongst rich, bored, noblemen for copious amounts of money. Things picked up after the Crusades when English Knights returned from battle with Arab horses and bred them with English mares over the next 400 years which produced faster horses with more endurance. The oldest organized horse race in the world, the Kiplingcotes Derby, ran its first race in 1519 and is in fact still running in England today, more popular than ever.

Horse racing was a part of the building of America and can be traced back to the very first English settlers who brought their trusty steeds with them on their long voyages. The first recorded horse racing track in North America was built in 1665 in Long Island, New York. At the time horse racing was in general a popular local sport and did not become regulated and organized in the United States after the Civil War in 1868.

Horse Fast forward to the multi-billion-dollar horse racing industry thriving today thanks to genetic breakthroughs in breeding, exceptional interest with the innovation of online betting and most of all a massive community dedicated to preserving and promoting the sport. Horse races are cultural events, the larger ones drawing international coverage, with attendees ranging from royalty to rubes. Horse racing offers something for just about everyone and access to this majestic sport is available unlike ever-before, where punters can place wagers on horse races across the planet right from their computer, in real time from flat tracks to cross-country and steeplechases.