Horse racing is an equestrian sport that has been practiced over the centuries; the chariot races of Roman times are an early example, as is the contest of the steeds of the god Odin and the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology. It is inextricably associated with gambling. The common sobriquet for Thoroughbred horse racing is The Sport of Kings.
One of the principal forms of horse racing, which is popular in many parts of the world, is Thoroughbred racing. Harness racing for Standardbred horses is also popular in Australia, New Zealand, the eastern United States and more popular than Thoroughbred racing in Canada and parts of Europe. Thoroughbred racing is done on the flat or over jumps, as steeplechasing or hurdles races. Quarter horse racing is also popular in the western United States and Florida. Racing with purebred Arabian horses exists in several states in the United States, as well as in most of Europe and the Middle East. This form of racing is known as endurance racing.
The different types of racing all concern different breeds of horses. The Thoroughbred races moderate distances at very fast paces. The Standardbred horses use their ability to race in harness at a trot or pace instead of under saddle at a gallop. The Quarter Horse is involved in short distance sprinting while the Arabian is involved in endurance racing. These four different breeds of horses possess different muscle structures that make them suitable for their type of racing. These horses race on various track surfaces ranging from dirt to a synthetic surface such as viscoride or polytrack.
The breeding, training and racing of horses in many countries is now a significant economic activity as, to a greater extent, is the gambling industry which is largely supported by it. The time invested in training these horses is extensive and varies according to the type of race the horse is involved in. Exceptional horses can win millions of dollars and might make millions more by providing stud services, such as horse breeding.
Horse racing in the United States and on the North American continent dates back to the establishment of another course named Newmarket—on the Salisbury Plains section of what is now known as the Hempstead Plains of Long Island, New York in 1665. This first racing meet in North America was supervised by New York's colonial governor, Richard Nicolls. The area is now occupied by the present Nassau County, New York region of Greater Westbury and East Garden City. The South Westbury section is also (appropriately) known as Salisbury.
In 1665, the first racetrack was constructed on Long Island. The American Stud Book was started in 1868, which prompted the beginning of organized horse racing. There were 314 tracks operating in the United States by 1890 and in 1894, the American Jockey Club was formed. The anti-gambling sentiment prevalent in the early 1900s led almost all states to ban bookmaking. Bookmaking is the process of taking bets, calculating odds, and paying out winnings. This nearly eliminated horse racing altogether. When parimutuel betting was introduced in 1908, the racing industry turned around. Horse racing flourished until World War II. The sport did not regain popularity until horses began to win the Triple Crown. The Triple Crown is a series of three races, consisting of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont Stakes.
Endurance racing began in California around 1955, and the first race marked the beginning of the Tevis Cup This race was a one hundred mile, one day long ride starting in Squaw Valley, Placer County and ending in Auburn, California. Founded in 1972, the American Endurance Ride Conference was the first national endurance riding association
Major horse racetracks in the U.S. were opened
Belmont Park is part of the western edge of the Hempstead Plains. Its mile and a half main track is the largest dirt Thoroughbred race course in the world, and it has the sport's largest grandstand.
In March 2009, Magna Entertainment Corp., the owner of Pimlico Race Course, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after defaulting on a US$40 million loan.
The style of racing, the distances and the type of events varies very much by the country in which the race is occurring, and many countries offer different types of horse races.
In the United States, Thoroughbred flat races are run on surfaces of either dirt, synthetic or turf; other tracks offer Quarter Horse racing and Standardbred horse racing, or combinations of these three types of racing surfaces. Racing with other breeds, such as Arabian horse racing, is found on a limited basis. American Thoroughbred races are run at a wide variety of distances, most commonly from 5 to 12 furlongs (0.63 to 1.5 mi; 1.0 to 2.4 km); with this in mind, breeders of Thoroughbred race horses attempt to breed horses that excel at a particular distance (see Dosage Index).
Flat racing is the most common form of Thoroughbred racing. The track is typically oval in shape and the race is based on speed and stamina. Within the general category of Thoroughbred flat racing, there exist two separate types of races. These include conditions races and handicap races. Condition races are the most prestigious and offer the biggest purses. Handicap races assign each horse a different amount of weight to carry based on their ability. Beside the weight they carry, the horse is also influenced by its closeness to the inside barrier, the track surface, its gender, the jockey, and the trainer. A typical Thoroughbred race is run on dirt, synthetic or turf surfaces. Viscoride and Polytrack are synthetic substitutes. Thoroughbred races vary in distance, but are usually somewhere between five and twelve furlongs. A furlong is a distance measurement equal to one eighth of a mile or two hundred and twenty yards.
The length of an endurance race varies greatly. Some are very short, only ten miles, while others can be up to one hundred miles. There are a few races that are even longer than one hundred miles and last multiple days. These different lengths of races are divided into five categories: pleasure rides (10–20 miles), non-competitive trail rides (21–27 miles), competitive trail rides (20–45 miles), progressive trail rides (25–60 miles), and endurance rides (40–100 miles in one day, up to 150 miles in multiple days). Because each race is very long, the tracks are almost always just dirt.
When Quarter Horse racing began, it was very expensive to lay a full mile of track so it was agreed that a straight track of four hundred meters, or one quarter of a mile would be laid instead. It became the standard racing distance for Quarter Horses and inspired their name. With the exception of the longer, 870-yard (800 m) distance contests, Quarter Horse races are run flat out, with the horses running at top speed for the duration. There is less jockeying for position, as turns are rare, and many races end with several contestants grouped together at the wire. The track surface is similar to that of Thoroughbred racing and usually consists of dirt or a synthetic surface.
Muscles are just bundles of stringy fibers that are attached to bones by tendons. These bundles have different types of fibers within them and horses have adapted over the years to produce different amounts of these fibers. Type IIb fibers are fast twitch fibers. These fibers allow muscles to contract quickly resulting in a great deal of power and speed. Type I fibers are slow-twitch fibers. They allow muscles to work for longer periods of time resulting in greater endurance. Type IIa fibers are in the middle. They are a balance between the fast twitch fibers and the slow-twitch fibers. They allow the muscles to generate both speed and endurance. Type I muscles are absolutely necessary for aerobic exercise because they rely on the presence of oxygen in order to work. Type II muscles are needed for anaerobic exercise because they can function without the presence of oxygen.
There are three founding sires that almost all Thoroughbreds can trace back to: the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin, and the Byerly Turk, named after their respective owners, Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin, and Captain Robert Byerly. All were taken to England where they were mated with racing mares. Thoroughbreds come in many different colors, all of which are recognized by the Jockey Club. However, the most prevalent include bay, chestnut, black, brown, and gray. Thoroughbreds range in height, and are measured in hands (a hand being four inches). Some are as small as 15 hands while others are over 17 hands. Thoroughbreds can travel medium distances at fast paces, requiring a balance between speed and endurance. They possess more Type IIa muscle fibers than the Quarter Horse or Arabian. This type of fiber allows them to propel themselves forward at great speeds and maintain it for an extended distance.
The Arabian Horse was prevalent in societies as early as 1500 B.C. The Bedouin Tribe in Arabia specifically bred these horses for stamina, so they could outrun their enemies. It was not until 1725 that the Arabian was introduced into the United States.
The Arabian Horse is primarily used in endurance racing. They must be able to withstand traveling long distances at a moderate pace. Arabians have an abundance of Type I fibers. Their muscles are able to work for extended periods of time. Also, the muscles of the Arabian are not nearly as massive as those of the Quarter Horse, which allow it to travel longer distances at quicker speeds.
The Quarter Horse was prevalent in America in the early 1600s. These horses were of mainly Spanish origin until the English horses were brought over. The native horse and the English horse were bred together, resulting in a very compact muscular horse. At this time, they were mainly used for chores such as plowing and cattle work. The Quarter Horse was not recognized as an official breed until the formation of the American Quarter Horse Association in 1940.
In order to be successful in racing, Quarter Horses needed to be able to propel themselves forward at extremely fast paces. The Quarter Horse has much larger hind limb muscles than the Arabian, which make it much less suitable for endurance racing. They also have more Type IIb fibers, which allow the Quarter Horse to accelerate rapidly.
The conditioning program for the different horses varies depending on the race length. Genetics, training, age, and skeletal soundness are all factors that contribute to a horse’s performance. The muscle structure and fiber type of horses depends on the breed, therefore genetics must be considered when constructing a conditioning plan. A horse’s fitness plan must be coordinated properly in order to prevent injury or unnecessary lameness. If these were to occur, they may negatively affect a horse’s willingness to learn. Sprinting exercises are appropriate for training two-year-old racehorses, but they are mentally incapable of handling too many of them. A horse’s skeletal system adapts to the exercise they are receiving. Because the skeletal system does not reach full maturity until the horse is at least four years of age, young racehorses often suffer multiple injuries.
The traditional high point of US horse racing is the Kentucky Derby. Together, the Derby, the Preakness Stakes run at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, and the Belmont Stakes held at Belmont Park on Long Island, form the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing for three-year-olds. They are all held early in the year, throughout May and the beginning of June. In recent years the Breeders' Cup races, run at the end of the year, have challenged the Triple Crown events as determiners of the three-year-old Champion. The Breeders' Cup is held at a different track every year; the 2008 edition was held at Santa Anita. It also has an important effect on the selection of other annual Champions. The corresponding Standardbred event is the Breeders' Crown. There are also a Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers and a Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Trotters, as well as an Arabian Triple Crown consisting of Drinkers of the Wind Derby in California, the Texas Six Shooter Stakes, and the Bob Magness Derby in Deleware.
Thoroughbred and Arabian fillies have their own "Triple" series, commonly referred to as The Triple Tiara. While there is some disagreement over which three races make up the Triple Tiara of Thoroughbred Racing, the Arabian list is more formal and consists of Daughters of the Desert Oaks in California, the Texas Yellow Rose Stakes, and the Cre Run Oaks in Delaware.
American betting on horse racing is sanctioned and regulated by the state the racetrack is located in Simulcast betting almost always exist across state lines with no oversight except the companies involved through legalized parimutuel gambling. A takeout, or "take", is removed from each betting pool and distributed according to state law, among the state, race track and horsemen. On average, 17 percent is withheld from win, place and show pools, with 83 percent being returned to the winning players.
The most famous horse from Canada is generally considered to be Northern Dancer, who after winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Queen's Plate in 1964 went on to become the most successful Thoroughbred sire of the 20th century; his two-minute-flat Derby was the fastest on record until Secretariat in 1973. The only challenger to his title of greatest Canadian horse would be his son Nijinsky II, who is the last horse to win the English Triple Crown. Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, home of the Queen's Plate, Canada's premier Thoroughbred stakes race, and the North America Cup, Canada's premier Standardbred stakes race, is the only race track in North America which stages Thoroughbred and Standardbred (harness) meetings on the same day. The Pattison Canadian International has the largest purse of any Canadian horse race.
Horse racing in Australia was founded during the early years of settlement and the industry has grown to be among the top three leading Thoroughbred racing nations of the world. The world famous Melbourne Cup, the so-called race that stops a nation, has recently attracted many international entries. In country racing, records indicate that Goulburn commenced racing in 1834. Australia's first country racing club was established at Wallabadah in 1852 and the Wallabadah Cup is still held on New Year's Day (the current racecourse was built in 1898).
In Australia, the most famous racehorse was Phar Lap (bred in New Zealand), who raced from 1928 to 1932. Phar Lap carried 9st 12 lb (62.5 kg) to win the 1930 Melbourne Cup. Australian steeplechaser Crisp is remembered for his battle with Irish champion Red Rum in the 1973 Grand National. In 2003–2005 the mare Makybe Diva (bred in the United Kingdom) became the only racehorse to ever win the Melbourne Cup three times, let alone in consecutive years. In harness racing, Paleface Adios became a household name during the 1970s, while Cardigan Bay, a pacing horse from New Zealand, enjoyed great success at the highest levels of American harness racing in the 1960s.
On 25 June 1812, the Champ de Mars racecourse was inaugurated by The Mauritius Turf Club which was founded earlier in the same year by Colonel Edward A. Draper. The Champ de Mars is situated on a prestigious avenue in Port Louis, the Capital City and is the oldest racecourse in the southern hemisphere. The Mauritius Turf Club is the third oldest active turf club in the world.
Undeniably, racing is one of the most popular sports in Mauritius now pulling regular crowds of 20,000 people and over to the only racecourse of the island.
A high level of professionalism has been attained in the organisation of races over the last decades preserving the unique electrifying ambiance prevailing on race days at the Champ de Mars.
Champ de Mars has four classic events a year such as: Duchess of York Cup, Barbe Cup, Maiden Cup and the Duke of York Club.
Most of the horses are imported from South Africa but some are also acquired from Australia, United Kingdom and France.
Racing is a long-established sport in New Zealand, stretching back to colonial times.
Horse racing is a significant part of the New Zealand economy which in 2004 generated 1.3% of the GDP. The indirect impact of expenditures on racing was estimated to have generated more than $1.4 billion in economic activity in 2004 and created 18,300 full-time equivalent jobs. More than 40,000 people were involved in some capacity in the New Zealand racing industry in 2004. In 2004, more than one million people attended race meetings in New Zealand. There are 69 Thoroughbred and 51 harness clubs licensed in New Zealand. Racecourses are situated in 59 locations throughout New Zealand.
The bloodstock industry is important to New Zealand, with the export sale of horses – mainly to Australia and Asia – generating more than $120 million a year. During the 2008-09 racing season 19 New Zealand bred horses won 22 Group One races around the world.
Notable racehorses from New Zealand include Cardigan Bay, Carbine, Nightmarch, Sunline, Desert Gold and Rising Fast. Phar Lap and Tulloch were both bred in New Zealand but did not race there. The most famous of these is probably Cardigan Bay. Stanley Dancer drove the New Zealand bred horse, Cardigan Bay to win $1 million in stakes in 1968, the first harness horse to surpass that milestone in American history.
Horse racing is a popular sport in South Africa that can be traced back to 1797. The first recorded race club meeting took place five years later in 1802. The national horse racing body is known as the National Horseracing Authority and was founded in 1882. The premier event, which attracts 50,000 people to Durban, is the Durban July Handicap, which has been run since 1897 at Greyville Racecourse. It is the largest and most prestigious event on the continent, with betting running into the hundreds of million rand. However, the other notable major races are the Summer Cup, held at Turffontein Racecourse in Johannesburg, and The J & B Met, which is held at Kenilworth race track in Cape Town.
Ireland has a rich history of horse racing; point to pointing originated there and even today, jump racing (National Hunt racing) is marginally more popular than racing on the flat. As a result, every year Irish horse racing fans travel in huge numbers to the highlight event of the National Hunt calendar, the Cheltenham Festival, and in recent years Irish owned or bred horses have dominated the event. Ireland has a thriving Thoroughbred breeding industry, stimulated by favourable tax treatment. The world's largest Thoroughbred stud, Coolmore Stud, is there. Notable Irish trainers include Dermot Weld, John Oxx and Aidan O'Brien. Notable jockeys include Kieren Fallon, Michael Kinane, Johnny Murtagh, Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy. The multiple Gold Cup winner Best Mate also hails from Ireland, while the great Red Rum was bred there, before moving across the Irish Sea to be trained. Arkle, rated the greatest steeplechaser of all time, was bred and trained in Ireland and became a national hero through his exploits. The legendary racemare Dawn Run was another famous Irish champion. Vincent O'Brien who trained horses at Ballydoyle in Tipperary, was one of the most successful trainers of all time, in both National Hunt racing and on the flat. Champion racehorses trained by Vincent O'Brien on the flat include Nijinsky II, Sir Ivor, Ballymoss, Alleged, The Minstrel and El Gran Senor.
France has a mature horse racing industry. The race with the largest international following is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe held at Longchamp Racecourse, with a prize of 4 million Euro (approx US$5.2 million), making it the richest race in Europe and the second richest turf race in the world after the Japan Cup. It is run on the 1st Sunday in October. The Grand Prix de Paris is also held at Longchamp but is run in mid July. The other two French Classic Races are Prix du Jockey Club (the French Derby) and the Prix de Diane both held in June at Chantilly Racecourse.
The Palio di Siena (known locally as Il Palio), the most famous palio in Italy, is a horse race held twice each year on July 2 and August 16 in Siena, in which the horse and rider represent one of the seventeen Contrade, or city wards. A magnificent pageant precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.
See also: List of horse races in Italy
In Great Britain, there are races which involve obstacles (either hurdles or fences) called National Hunt racing and those which are unobstructed races over a given distance (flat racing). Many of the sport's greatest jockeys, most notably Sir Gordon Richards have been British. British racing has rules that stop the jockey using the whip too much, such as: they are not allowed to raise their whip over their shoulder so stopping them hitting the horse too hard.
Races are not referred to as Race 1, Race 2, etc., but by the starting time. For instance, the "1:35" or the "3:10". Each race may also have a name, which may include a sponsor's name, associated with it. The sport is regulated by the British Horseracing Authority.
The British tradition of horse racing left its mark as one of the most important entertainment and gambling institutions in Hong Kong. Established as the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club in 1884, the non-profit organisation conducts nearly 700 races every season at the two race tracks in Happy Valley and Sha Tin. The sport annually draws millions of dollars of tax revenue. Off-track betting is available from overseas bookmakers.
In Malaysia, horse racing was introduced during the British colonial era and remained until today as gaming activities. There are three race courses in Malaysia, namely Penang Turf Club, Perak Turf Club and Selangor Turf Club. Horse racing is a legal form of gambling within the Turf Club and betting is only available in the turf club. Racing in Malaysia and Singapore is conducted and governed under the Rules of the Malayan Racing Association. Horse racing gambling in Malaysia is operated and organized by Pan Malaysian Pools Sdn Bhd.
Horse racing was introduced to Singapore by the British during the colonial era and remained one of the legal forms of gambling after independence. It remains a highly popular form of entertainment with the local Singaporean community till this date. Races are typically held on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays at the Singapore Turf Club in Kranji. Horse racing has also left its mark in the naming of roads in Singapore such as Race Course Road in Little India where horse racing was first held in Singapore and Turf Club Road in Bukit Timah where Singapore Turf Club used to be before moving to its current location in 1999.
In India, four Turf Authorities conduct horse racing. The Mahalaxmi Racecourse in Mumbai conducts horse racing from November to April.
Japan conducts more than 21,000 horse races a year in one of three types: flat racing, jump racing (races over hurdles), and Ban'ei Racing (also called Draft Racing).
There are a total of thirty racetracks in Japan. Ten of these tracks are known as "central tracks", where most of Japan's top races are conducted. Races at these ten tracks are conducted by the Japan Racing Association (JRA), which operates under the oversight of the Japanese government. The remaining twenty tracks are operated by municipal racing authorities and run under the affiliation of the National Association of Racing (NAR). Two tracks, Sapporo Racecourse and Chukyo Racecourse, run separate meetings under either JRA or NAR jurisdiction.
The JRA purse structure is one of the richest in the world. As of 2007, a typical JRA maiden race for three year olds carries a purse of ¥9.55 million (about US$83,000), with ¥5 million (about US$43,000) paid to the winner. Purses for graded stakes races begin at around ¥75 million (about US$650,000).
Japan's top stakes races are run in the spring and autumn. The country's most prominent race is the Grade 1 Japan Cup, a 2,400 m (about 1 1/2 mile) invitational grass race run every November at Tokyo Racecourse for a purse of ¥530 million (about US$5.4 million), currently the richest turf race in the world. Other noted stakes races include the February Stakes, Takamatsunomiya Kinen, Yasuda Kinen, Takarazuka Kinen, Arima Kinen, and the Tenno Sho races run in the spring and fall. The Satsuki Sho, Tokyo Yushun, and Kikuka Sho comprise the Japanese Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.
Japan's top jump race is the Nakayama Grand Jump, run every April at Nakayama Racecourse. Instead of running over a large course as is the case in other countries, the course for the 4,250 m (about 2 5/8 mile) Nakayama Grand Jump follows a twisted path on the inside portion of Nakayama's racing ovals. The race carries a purse of ¥170 million (about US$1.4 million).
The top jockey in Japan is Yutaka Take, who is a multiple champion in his homeland and regularly rides Japanese horses in stakes races around the world. Yutaka Take was the regular jockey for Deep Impact, JRA's two time Horse of the Year (2005–06).
The US racehorse Sunday Silence had remarkable success as a sire in Japan, as the number one sire for about 10 years, with progeny winning the Japan Cup many times, the Hong Kong Vase and the Melbourne Cup.
Usually Mongolian horse racing takes place during Mongolia's Independence Day. Mongolia does not have Thoroughbred horse racing, it has own Mongolian horses racing which run at least for 25 km distance.
Horse racing in South Korea traces back to May 1898, when a foreign language institute run by the government included a donkey race in its athletic rally. However, this type of racing was sponsored for entertainment purposes only. No betting was conducted. It was in 1920s that "Modern Horse Racing" involving a betting system made its debut. In 1922, the Chosun Racing Club, the nation's first-ever authorized horse racing club, was established to make horse racing more systematic and better organized. In 1923, the pari-mutuel betting system was officially adopted for the first time in Korea. The Sinseol-dong racecourse opened in 1928 and incorporated racing clubs were allowed to have their own racecourses.
Finally in 1933 a decree on horse racing was promulgated. Under the decree, only incorporated racing clubs were entitled to conduct horse racing. The Chosun Horse Racing Authority was also established in 1933 to coordinate and control incorporated racing clubs across the nation and ensure consistency in their administration.
In 1945, the Chosun Horse Affairs Authority was renamed to the Korea Racing Authority, and efforts were made to restore the national identity in horse racing. However, the Korean War which broke in 1950 resulted in great turmoil for Korean society, thus undermining the development of horse racing. Worse yet, during the three-year war, racecourses were requisitioned for military training and horse racing came to an abrupt halt.
To keep the tradition of horse racing alive, the Korea Racing Authority worked out a plan to reestablish the racecourse at Ttuksom in Seoul. The construction, which began during the war, was completed in May 1954. With its dedication, horse racing resumed, and the newly constructed Ttksom racecourse served as the hub of Korean horse racing until it was relocated to the modern racecourse in Gwacheon in 1989.
Pari-mutuel bets were tallied manually until 1984. The inefficient management of pari-mutuel betting system was a major stumbling block to broadening the fan base. To overcome this fundamental obstacle, the computerized pari-mutuel betting system was established in 1984, and at the same time, horse racing came to be televised in color, both on-&off-course. These two measures have played a decisive role in boosting attendance and turnover. For instance, in 1984, turnover and attendance increased at 67% and 58%, respectively, from the previous year.
To form a link in the chain of the program to make the most of the Olympic facilities, the government designated the KRA as the organization exclusively responsible for providing the Olympic Equestrian Park. Accordingly, the KRA secured 280 acres (1.1 km2) of the land in Gwacheon area on the southern outskirts of Seoul, and began its construction in 1984 till 1988. After the Olympics, the Park was converted into racing facilities named Seoul Race Park and the first race was held on September 1, 1989. With the opening of the Seoul Race Park, the 36-year-long era of the Ttuksom Racecourse came to an end and the nation's horse racing continued to make great strides.
As part of the efforts to preserve the ponies native to Jeju Island, which has been designated as Natural Monument No. 347, the KRA began the construction of the 180-acre (0.7 km2) Jeju Racecourse at the foot of Mt. Halla in October 1987. Three years later in October 1990, the Racecourse opened for pony racing.
As an effort to raise racing quality and promote horseracing nationwide, the KRA started to construct the new thoroughbred racecourse in Busan, the second largest city in South Korea. The racecourse opened in September 2005. The stellar growth of Korean racing and KRA's internationalization efforts have drawn the international attention since the beginning of the 2000s. Led by this, in October 2002, the Asian Racing Federation decided to designate South Korea as the host of the 30th Asian Racing Conference in May 2005. Also, in June 2004, the International Cataloguing Standards Committee included Korea as one of the Part III countries, and decided to add seven South Korean Grade Races to the Blue Book list starting from 2005.
The Meydan Racecourse in Dubai, reported to be the world's largest race track, is scheduled to open on March 27, 2010 for the Dubai World Cup race. The race track complex contains two tracks with seating for 60,000, a hotel, restaurants, theater and museum.
There is no parimutuel betting in the UAE as gambling is illegal.
Horse racing was banned in the People’s Republic of China in 1949, but reappeared on a small scale in the 1990s. In 2008, the China Speed Horse Race Open in Wuhan was organized as a step towards legalizing both horse racing and gambling on the races. Illegal gambling is widespread so the reintroduction of commercial racing may be an attempt to generate revenue on legal gambling.
While the attention of horse racing fans and the media is focused almost exclusively on the horse's performance on the racetrack, or for male horses possibly its success as a sire, little publicity is given to brood mares. Such is the case of La Troienne, one of the most important mares of the 20th century to whom many of the greatest thoroughbred champions, and dams of champions, can be traced.
In most horse races, including both flat and steeplechases, the pedigree of the horse is one of the things that allow it to race: the horse must have a sire (father) and a dam (mother) who are purebred individuals of whatever breed is racing. For example, in a normal harness race, the horses sire and dam must both be pure Standardbreds. The only exception to this is in Quarter Horse racing where an Appendixed Quarter Horse may be considered eligible to race against (standard) Quarter Horses. An appendixed Quarter Horse is a horse who has either one Quarter Horse parent and one parent of any other eligible breed (such as Thoroughbred, the most common Appendixed cross), or both parents are registered Appendixed Quarter Horses, or one parent is a Quarter Horse and one parent is an Appendixed Quarter Horse. The designation of "Appendixed" refers to the addendum section, or Appendix, of the Official Quarter Horse registry. AQHA also issues a "Racing Register of Merit" which allows a horse to race on Quarter Horse tracks, but not be considered a Quarter Horse for breeding purposes (unless other requirements are met).
Pedigrees of some stallions are recorded in Weatherbys Stallion Book and pedigrees of recent Stakes race winners can be found on sites such as the-racehorse.com. Thoroughbred pedigrees are at: Australian Stud Book and Thoroughbred pedigree database: Pedigree Query
At many horse races, there is a gambling station, where gamblers can stake money on a horse. (Gambling on horses is prohibited at some tracks; the nationally renowned Colonial Cup Steeplechase in Camden, South Carolina, is known as one of the races which betting is illegal citing a 1951 law.) Where gambling is allowed, most tracks offer Parimutuel betting where gamblers' money is pooled and shared proportionally among the winners once a deduction is made from the pool. In some countries, such as UK, Ireland and Australia, an alternative and more popular facility is provided by Bookmakers who effectively make a market in odds. This allows the gambler to 'lock in' odds on a horse at a particular time (known as 'taking the price' in the UK). Parimutuel gambling on races also provides not only purse money to participants but considerable tax revenue, with over $100 billion wagered annually in 53 countries.
The three most common ways to bet money are: bet to win, bet to place, and bet to show. Bet to win means that you stake money on the horse, and if it comes in first place, the bet is a winner. In bet to place, you are betting on your horse to finish either first or second and 'show' is first, second or third. Since it is much easier to select a horse to finish first, second or third than it is to select a horse just for first, the 'show' payoffs will be much lower on average than win payoffs. Betting 'show' is really playing it safe while win betting is a bit more risky, yet the rewards are better.
In Europe, betting to show is less commonplace since the number of "payout places" varies depending on the size of the field that takes part in the race. For example, in a race with seven or less runners in the UK, only the first two finishers would be considered winning bets with most bookmakers. Three places are paid for eight or more runners, whilst a handicap race with 16 runners or more will see the first four places being classed as "placed". Betting to place takes on a different meaning in Europe for this reason. In the US a place bet would only pay out if the horse in question finished first or second, whilst in the UK, a place bet would be deemed a winner based on the aforementioned criteria.
The term "Each-Way" bet is used across the globe, but again has a different meaning depending on your location. An each-way (or E/W) bet sees your total bet being split in two, with half being placed on the win, and half on the place. US bettors would only see a payout for a first or second place finish with this type of bet, whilst European and British bettors (or "punters") would receive a payout if the horse either wins, or is placed based on the place criteria as stated above. Most UK bookmakers cut the odds considerably for an each-way bet, offering the full odds if the horse wins but only a third, a quarter or a fifth of the odds if only the place section of the bet is successful. In the UK some bookmakers will offer a sixth of the odds for a place on the Grand National and increase the number of places available to achieve this to finishing in the first five. This additional concession is offered because of the large number of runners in the race (maximum 40). Occasionally other handicap races with large fields (numbers of runners) receive the same treatment from various bookmakers.
In addition to traditional betting with a bookmaker, punters are able to both back and lay money on an online betting exchange. Punters who lay the odds are in effect acting as a bookmaker. The odds of a horse are set by the market conditions of the betting exchange which is dictated to by the activity of the members.
Organized groups dedicated to protecting animals, such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, target some horse sports with claims of animal cruelty. Horse racing and rodeo are most commonly targeted, due both to their high visibility and to the level of stress and potential physical dangers to the equines involved. Criticism of horse racing and its practices runs a wide gamut, however; while some may consider even fairly drastic discipline of horses non-abusive, others may consider abuse to be anything done against the will of the animal in question. Some people may consider poor living conditions abusive, while others might consider riding abusive in and of itself.
Some behaviors and activities are widely criticized as abusive by people within the horse industry, even if not illegal as a matter of public law, while others are so widely condemned that they have been outlawed at the federal level and violations can incur criminal penalties.
In 2009, animal rights group PETA released undercover video of alleged abuses of former race horses at a slaughterhouse in Kumamoto, Japan. The group states that 20,000 horses, including former Thoroughbred race horses, were killed in 2008 in Japan for use as human and pet food.
There are many dangers in horse racing for both horse and jockey: a horse can stumble and fall, or fall when jumping an obstacle, exposing both jockey and horse to the danger of being trampled and injured.
Anna Waller, a member of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of North Carolina, co-authored a four-year long study of jockey injuries and stated to the New York Times that "For every 1,000 jockeys you have riding, over 600 will have medically treated injuries." She added that almost 20% of these were serious head or neck injuries. The study reported 6,545 injuries during the years 1993–1996. More than 100 jockeys were killed in the US between 1950 and 1987.
Horses also face dangers in racing. 1.5 horses die out of every 1000 starts in the US. The U.S. Jockey Club in New York estimates that about 600 horses died at racetracks in 2006. The Jockey Club in Hong Kong reported a far lower figure of .58 horses per 1000 starts. There is speculation that drugs used in horse racing in the US which are banned elsewhere are responsible for the higher death rate in the US.
Horse racing is a sport in which a race is held between racehorses, horses bred for racing. Racehorses are most often thoroughbreds. The Kentucky Derby is a major horserace that is held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky every year. The Kentucky Derby is part of the Triple Crown, which includes two other races.
Possibly the most famous race in the world and certainly the one that generates the most revenue is The Melbourne Cup, held every year in Australia on the second Tuesday of November. Heralded as "the race that stops the nation," this one race alone keeps hatmakers in the city of melbourne in business for an entire year.
Every year, during the cup, over 11 million people from Australia and New Zealand tune in to listen to the race, starting at 3:00pm.