The History of Horse Racing

The sport of racing horses extends back to the early domestication of horses by nomadic tribesmen in Central Asia. Since that time horse racing has taken place in a variety of settings and by a variety of people.

Horse racing as we know it today had its beginnings in the 12th Century. At this time English knights returned home from the Crusades, bringing Arab horses with them. The Thoroughbred breed of horse was produced when Arab stallions were bred with English mares. The outcome was a breed with endurance and speed. Soon the nobility began privately wagering over races between Thoroughbred horses.

From 1660, during King Charles II’s reign, match horse racing events began being held at Newmarket. When Queen Anne was in power (1702 to 1714), horse racing advanced to including several horses, with spectators placing bets. Thus the Sport of Kings was born as a professional discipline. A number of racecourses were established and the Jockey Club was created in 1750 to govern the sport. Along with creating rules, sanctioning racecourses and naming races, the Jockey Club also set up the General Stud Book to record the pedigree of all racing Thoroughbreds.

The first racetrack was established in the United States in 1665 and the American Stud Book was put in place in 1868. By 1894 the American Jockey Club was set up. In the early 1900s bookmaking was banned, but pari-mutuel betting saved horse racing in 1908. Since then, horse racing in America has gone from strength to strength.

Arlington Race Track – Home of Innovation in Horse Racing

Arlington Park Race Track is an unforgettable venue to experience thoroughbred horse racing. Perfectly maintained lush gardens and sparkling clean facilities greet you at this elegant racecourse with its magnificent six-story grandstand and sweeping tracks. Arlington has been a premier venue for horse racing in Illinois since 1927 and right from the start has been well known for its innovations.

In 1933, Arlington made horse racing history with its revolutionary step of installing the first all-electric totalisator, a system that reduced the time between races. The system also added credibility to betting information by displaying the amount bet on each horse in a race. The following year the first turf races were run in Arlington also a first in Illinois history.
But, innovations did not stop there.

In 1936, Arlington installed Chicago’s first photo-finish camera, called the Eye in the Sky and in 1940 the racecourse got its first electric starting gate. As the popuarity of the sport and race track grew the club installed a closed circuit TV system in 1967 which was the first time this was done for any sport. This was followed by the introduction of Trifecta wagering in 1971, and ten years later Arlington made history once again when it hosted the world’s first million dollar race, The Arlington Million.

Richard Duchossois led an Illinois investment group and bought the racecourse with plans to revolutionize the sport and track. Unfortunately soon after that, a fire gutted the entire club in 1985. The show went on despite this and the meet was shifted to Hawthorne Racetrack. The club however was determined to hold its fifth Arlington Million at Arlington by using temporary bleachers. The fifth Million, appropriately known as the “Miracle Million” earned the the entire Arlington team a well-deserved Eclipse Award, the first ever awarded to a racetrack.

Richard Duchossois later bought out his partners, and Arlington re-opened on June 28, 1989, with a new name, the Arlington International Racecourse, at the same time introducing a new concept in thoroughbred racing. The idea was to make Arlington Park a center for wholesome family entertainment. The state of the art racecourse participated in the excitement of the first Dubai World Cup, the world’s first $4 million race in 1996 with the hosting of its simulcast for North and South America.

After an absence of two years Arlington reopened in 2000. In September, Arlington Park and Churchill Downs Incorporated completed its merger and the track reverted to wagering in 1971. Ten years later Arlington made history once again when it hosted the world’s first million dollar race, The Arlington Million.

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