Day at the Races: A Short History Of Horse Racing

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Humans and horses have coexisted and worked together for thousands of years across many different cultures, although you might assume that the racing of horses for sport was something that could not be justified until relatively recently.

In reality, this is an ancient practice, the origins of which can be traced to the original Olympic Games held in 700 BCE.

Over the millennia this pastime has evolved significantly, with the professional industry as it exists today generating tens of billions in betting revenue, even if some regions have seen a decline in the past decade. It has even transcended its physical origins and been adopted as a theme for slots games like Scudamore’s Super Stakes, found on Casumo casino, as well as inspiring many other creative endeavours including books and movies. Here is a brief introduction to the history of the sport, hitting all the key moments that helped to define it.

Basic Beginnings

Although the earliest documentation of horse racing is close to 3000 years old, it is thought that people have been indulging in equestrian competitions of this kind for much longer, even if there is no hard evidence to back up such claims.

From Greece and Rome to the Middle East, China, Africa and beyond, most parts of the world either developed horse racing organically or adopted it due to influence from elsewhere.

Of course, since horses were an essential commodity for travel, trade and even warfare, it took some time for a more formalised approach to racing to take hold. Only the elites of each era could afford to own horses solely for racing.

Prize Money Arrives

Winning something other than the satisfaction of having bettered your opponents was not something that came about in horse racing until the 12th century in England. Racing became something of a chivalric event, with knights competing against one another on horseback to try and snatch a slice of a purse worth £40, which is equivalent to over £80,000 today.

Over the ensuing decades, the kings and aristocrats of Europe worked to formalise horse racing. In the 17th century, it was Charles II of England who not only created trophies to be won at events of this kind but also laid down standardised rules to which adherence was mandatory for any participants. The Suffolk town of Newmarket became the centre for the sport at this time and remains so in the 21st century.

With prize money being introduced, so too the practise of gambling on the outcome of horse races was normalised. Once again the 17th century saw the springing up of wagers placed on racing, both in Europe and in the colonies. Horse racing and betting were adopted in America prior to the War of Independence, starting on the East Coast and spreading westwards as the colonists made their way across the continent.

Modernity Emerges

It was not until the 18th century that horse racing took on a form that would be more recognisable to modern audiences. While owners and riders were originally one and the same, this began to change at this point. There were also far more publically accessible events, with the St Leger of 1776 often cited as being the starting point for this era.

As the sport grew in popularity, it also brought with it more esteem for hosts and organisers, as well as more cash generated by betting. Indeed there is little doubt that without the presence of gambling, horse racing would not have been able to flourish in the way that it has over the past two centuries.

With money came professionalism and it was no longer possible for gentlemen jockeys to be the norm in the sport; instead, there was a race to find the most talented riders, regardless of their birth, social status and background.

Today this tradition is continued, albeit on a much larger scale. Access is easier than ever thanks to TV broadcasts, web streams and extensive coverage across the globe, ensuring that horse racing is a truly mainstream pursuit here in the 21st century.

Top Image Source: Pixabay

Read 285 times Last modified on Tuesday, 03 December 2019 14:53
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