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Often called the “Sport of Kings,” the history of horse racing has its origins in the ancient civilizations throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean regions, the nomadic tribes of Asia, and in European mythology. Archaeological records reveal that equestrian events, such as chariot races or contests between horses and riders prevailed in the Syrian, Egyptian, and Grecian civilizations. Horse racing events also took place during the Olympic Games during the sixth century BC.
Although many countries have developed rules and traditions governing horse racing, the premise of the sport has not changed over time. Horse racing will always define a competitive event between horses and riders. A few examples of horse racing events include thoroughbred, flat, saddle, harness, jumping, and endurance competitions. Most of the events outline the specific types of breeds that can run, the distances of the tracks, surface types, course specifications, distance and time durations, and the weight of the rider.
A Popular Spectator Sport Around the World
Globally, horse racing represents one of the most popular spectator sports among sports fans, proven by the fact horse racing enthusiasts wager billions of dollars annually. Each year, approximately 50 countries hold racing events whose pari-mutuel wagering exceeds $100 billion annually.
The worldwide popularity of horse racing has been revealed by the certification of 360 horse racing tracks in Australia (the most of any country); 250 racing sites in France; 200 tracks in the U.S. and its territories; and 60 tracks throughout the UK. In addition, numerous international organizations have been founded and established to preserve and promote this timeless and traditional sport.
Australia’s Lure for Horse Racing Enthusiasts
Why Australia is the most popular venue for horse racing enthusiasts? While gambling and the winning of money is, no doubt, a draw, Australians also have other reasons why they love the ponies.
Australians are known for their love of sports the world over. People in the country are either spectators or participants. Therefore, not all Australians bet on the horses. Some like to attend a race because they enjoy the activity. Australians, as well as other sporting enthusiasts, cannot help but admire the athletic ability of racing horses. Australians love horse racing as much as they like watching the Olympics, and often get caught up in seeing horses compete week after week at various sites in the country.
A Rich History in Australia
Outside of Australia, most people do not realize that horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the land down under. Professional horse racing has taken place in Australia since the early part of the nineteenth century. Horse racing was therefore popular before Australians got involved in national sports, such as the NRL, AFL, and rugby. Of the older traditional spectator sports, both cricket and horse racing are standout favorites among Australians.
Moreover, Australian’s love spending a day at their many horse racing tracks. Although they can see horse races on TV, nothing excites Aussies more than enjoying a fun day at the horse track with their friends and family. They don’t have to wait for the yearly running of the Melbourne Cup in November either. They can watch horses race at one of a variety of first-class race tracks throughout the country any time.
Indeed, local horse racing comprises a full-day event. Even if you do not spend the entire day at the track, you can still see some local horse racing live. Big races, such as the Melbourne Cup or Cox Plate, only serve to fuel the interest and thrills experienced by horse racing enthusiasts.
Making a Living Off of the Horses
Aussies are so mesmerized by the sport they will stop whatever they are doing to watch a 4-minute horse race. In fact, the country has people who actually make their living by wagering on horses and therefore boasts a high number of professional punters.
Now that Australians can wager on the horses, as well, from home, the sport will prove to be even a stronger draw for veteran and beginning betters alike. No one can deny that the future of horse racing looks bright throughout the world, especially in the horse-friendly country of Australia.
Top Horse Races in the World
What do you think about professional horse racing? Do you actively watch and bet on the sport? What is your favorite horse racing event in the world? According to horse racing experts, the most famous horse races and events include the following:
• The Cheltenham Festival
– A prestigious gathering and part of the National Hunt racing calendar.
• The Melbourne Cup
– The Australian race, which started in 1861, is promoted as the “race that stops the nation.” It is noted as being the most prestigious 2-mile handicap internationally.
• The Dubai World Cup
– Recently introduced in 1996, the Dubai World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is as much about horse racing as it is about fashion and style.
• The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
– This horse racing event, held in Paris, France, usually takes place the first Saturday in October. The winner of the event receives one of the richest payouts of all sporting events worldwide. As of 2020, the amount awarded currently stands at $10,500,000.
• The Breeder’s Cup
– This thoroughbred race takes place in a different location each year. Awards amount to over $30 million during the two-day annual event.
• The Belmont Stakes
– Held in Belmont, New York each June, the Belmont Stakes normally represents the final race in the Triple Crown Series of horse racing.
• The Grand National
– Held yearly in Aintree, England, this National Hunt horse race features 30 fences, all which must be jumped, to complete the 2-mile course with a straightaway. Amateur jockeys and trainers are encouraged to enter and participate in the event.
• The Preakness
– Held at the Pimlico Racetrack each year in Baltimore, this racing event usually takes place on the third Saturday during May. It is the noted second leg of the famous Triple Crown event.
• The Royal Ascot
– This race, which takes place in England, is a fancy gathering – an opportunity for the English gentry and ladies to show off their prized thoroughbreds. Attendees must follow a strict dress code and wear the proper attire. The four-day event is comprised of 24 separate races. Closely associated with the Royal Family, the race is held only 6 miles from Windsor Castle.
• The Kentucky Derby
– The Kentucky Derby is considered number one among famous horse races in the world. All horse race lovers know that the race is the first event held that starts off the Triple Crown event. However, the 146th running of the Derby was held on September 5, 2020 rather than the first Saturday in May because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. The race, which takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, is open to 3-year-old thoroughbreds and is considered the king of all horse races.
More Horse Racing
If you enjoy horses and racing, we invite you to read more about the horses, jockeys, and events that make the sport as timeless as it is exciting.
Whether you are a member, occasional visitor, or new to HorseRacing.com, we hope that you enjoy what you read and visit us again soon as we continue to add fresh content and community features. If you have any suggestions or comments we look forward to hearing from you.
Guide to Horse Racing
Horse Racing Resources
We have assembled some fast facts and trivia about horse racing. This information was compiled from a variety of resources including Wikipedia, Statista, NTRA, Veterinarians.com, U.S. Thoroughbred Association, International Federation of Horseracing, and Our World in Data.
Below is our profile containing some facts and information to familiarize you about horse racing.
- 1000 pounds (660 kg) – Average weight of a competitive racehorse
- 4 ft 10 in (147 cm) to 5 ft 6 in (168 cm) – Height range of a professional jockey
- 9 pounds (5.4 kg) – Weight of a horse’s heart
- 38 miles per hour (22 km) – Speed of horses in a race competition
- $100 Billion – Amount of annual wagering on horse racing events in 53 countries
- $300,000,000 – career earnings of Jockey Mike Smith
- Australia – the country with the most horseracing tracks
- Hippodrome – The name of horseracing tracks in Europe and many parts of the world
- 1875 – Year the first Kentucky Derby
- 1868 – The creation of the American Stud Book
- 12 – The number of Triple Crown winners
- “Run for the Roses” – Nickname of the Kentucky Derby
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