The History of Horse Racing
Horse racing is one of the most popular sports in the world. In 2015 in the United States alone there were 83,785 races. So, how did horse racing become so popular?
The first known horse races took place in Greece in the Olympics from 700-40 BC. They competed in both chariot races and mounted races.
Horse racing was a favored form of entertainment in the Roman Empire. Though there are no records of races in other countries, places that had developed expert horsemanship skills, like the Persia and China, most likely also held races.
The first known purse for a race was sometime between 1189-99 in England. The course was three miles and knights were the jockeys. Henry VII was the first to import horses from Italy and Spain and began to breed his own horses. Charles II, who reigned over England from 1660-85, held races that he created a list of rules for, the first established regulations for horse racing.
The first race in France was caused by a bet between two noblemen in1651. Gambling on races became very popular during Louis XIV's reign, and Louis XVI organized the first jockey club.
Racing was brought to America when the British army was occupying what is now New York. Col. Richard Nicolls set up a race course for the colonies that spanned two miles and gave trophies to the fastest horse and rider.
The rules for horse racing have changed over time. The first races held by Charles II known as ‘King’s Plates’ required horses to be 6 years old and carrying 140 pounds. Over time, races allowed horses to be younger and adjusted the weight they had to carry to their age.
What we consider modern horse racing started in the late 1700s. Derbies became popular and many of the races that are now famous started during this time. The Belmont Stakes began in 1867, the Preakness Stakes in 1873, and the Kentucky Derby in 1875, thus creating the Triple Crown.