The History of the Horse Race
Horse racing is one of the oldest sports in the world. It has been recorded in Ancient Greece, Egypt, Babylon, Syria, and many other civilisations. Despite its storied history, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific date for the first documented race. One possibility is the wager between two noblemen in France in 1651.
The first recorded horse races were bareback match races held on horseback. Racing became more organized and open in the 18th century. In addition to the basic contest of speed, there was also a greater emphasis on safety. A steward would take a photo of each finisher, and the race was ruled accordingly.
By the 1750s, the original King’s Plates were for six-year-old horses carrying 168 pounds at four-mile heats. These were standardized races, and a silver cup was awarded to the best horse.
Later, four-year-olds were admitted to the King’s Plates. As the number of fields in races increased, the second and third prizes were introduced. Eventually, a fourth prize was added.
Racing evolved to become a full-blown public spectacle. After the Civil War, speed became a major goal. Some of the most famous races in the United States are the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.
During the reign of Louis XIV, racing based on gambling was common. However, Louis XVI decided to impose extra weight on foreign horses, and required that each horse be accompanied by a certificate of origin. If an owner withdrew from a race, they forfeited half the purse. For the most part, penalties were mild.
New drugs were developed, and powerful painkillers began to bleed over into the race preparation and racing itself. Antipsychotics, blood doping, and growth hormones were just some of the new treatments.
Despite the advances in medical care, racing officials couldn’t keep up with the influx of new drugs. There were no reliable tests, and many new medicines simply confused the picture. Ultimately, the Jersey Act disqualified Thoroughbreds bred outside of England.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, horse racing became a big business. The sport’s popularity soared, and the richest races in the country were funded by stakes fees charged by owners. Many of the prestigious English races were won by French horses with “tainted” American ancestry.
The advent of electronic monitoring equipment and 3D printing technology has changed the way we view horse races. Thermal imaging cameras now detect overheating after a race, and 3D printing can produce prosthetics for injured horses. This has resulted in some controversy.
But despite the changes, the core concept of horse racing remains the same. Winning a race requires a lot of physical effort on the horse’s part, as well as skill from the jockey. Jockeys are required to ride to the horse’s strengths, and to plot the right time to strike for home.
Some countries have a limit on how often the jockey can use the whip. Others allow them to do so as often as they want.