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Horse Racing

Horse Racing

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Origins. Organized horse racing in the United States dates back to 1665, when Richard Nicolls, the royal governor of New York, authorized the first track at what is now Hempstead, Long Island. The first thoroughbred or purebred sire of record to reach the country was Bulle Rock, imported from England to Virginia around 1730. Thereafter scores of both sires and mares arrived, forming the foundation of the American racing stock, which by the 1860s was based on Diomed, the winner of the first English Derby, Glencoe, winner of the Two Thousand Guineas and Ascot Gold Cup, and others. During the colonial era horse racing was the favorite pastime of the Southern elite, especially the Virginian gentry. In the late 1820s track organizers in the United States standardized weights, planned yearly schedules, arranged the

settlement of bets, and fixed rules of entry. Local clubs increasingly charged admission, less to make a profit than to control the clientele, especially when only the wealthy could afford to own, maintain, and train thoroughbred racing horses. Most jockeys, in the South at least, were African Americans.

Popularity. By the 1830s horse racing had become a sensation in the United States, and remained so with each passing decade. The English traveler William Blane remarked that it roused more interest than a presidential election. By 1836 the sale of race horses amounted to more than $500,000 nationwide, and three years later there were 130 thoroughbred meetings in the country. Many of the races reflected the sectional issues of the day, pitting horses from the North against those from the South. In 1823 the race between the Northern champion Eclipse and the Souths Sir Henry at Union Course, Long Island, attracted an estimated seventy thousand spectators, some of whom traveled five hundred miles to see the event. Eclipse won the prize, which amounted to $20,000. At least forty U.S. senators attended the 1842 match between Fashion (North) and Boston (South); grandstand seats at the event cost ten dollars apiece.

Civil War. The North-South challenges continued until the late 1850s. The Civil War, along with the Indian wars, helped promote the breeding of thoroughbredscavalrymen needed fast horses, and by 1861 most American horses were crossbreeds. As a result, Union officials during the Civil War steadily imported thoroughbreds from England. It was also at this time that the first major-stakes race occurred in the United States. (In a stakes or sweepstakes, the owner of each horse puts up money before the race, with the winner taking the full amount, known as a purse.) In 1864 John C. Morrissey, the former boxing champion turned businessman/professional gambler, built a racetrack at Saratoga, New York. He chose the area because of the wealthy families who visited the nearby health resort in the summers. Incorporated the next year, the Saratoga Association for the Improvement of the Breed of Horses had socially prominent men on its board, including William R. Travers, John R. Hunter, and Leonard W. Jerome.

Three Classics. After the Civil War horse racing, like many sports, began to boom as other entrepreneurs followed Morrisseys lead. During this period the three American classic horse races began: the Belmont Stakes, Preakness Stakes, and Kentucky Derby. On 19 June 1867 the first annual Belmont Stakes was won by Ruthless, with a time of 3:05. The track was 1.625 miles long and was located at Jerome Park, New York. (In 1890 organizers moved the race to Morris Park, then in 1906 to Belmont Park.) The Maryland Jockey Club staged its inaugural meeting at Pimlico Racecourse, just outside of Baltimore, on 25 October 1870. The first stakes race, the two-mile Dinner Party Stakes, was held two days later, with the winner being a huge colt named Preakness. Afterward the duke of Hamilton purchased the horse and took it to England, where he killed the animal in a pique. Three years later the Jockey Club honored the great horse by naming a race for him and offering the Wood-lawn Vase as a trophy. The Preakness Stakes had its first running on 27 May 1873, when the bay colt Survivor won the 1.187-mile race in 2:43. In 1875 the Kentucky Derby opened at Churchill Downs in Louisville, where a small chestnut colt named Aristides won the 1.5-mile stakes race. Local promoter M. Lewis Clark had modeled the track on the Derby Stakes at Epsom Downs, the Oaks, and other English classics. The stakes race for three-year-olds was later shortened to 1.25 miles, and is still held the first Saturday in May. The Derby is probably the best known of the three American classics, which today are called the Triple Crown.

Trotters. Another form of horse racing during this period was harness racing. By the 1850s there were seventy harness tracks nationwide, with seven in the New York metropolitan area alone. Most trotters in the mid nineteenth century traced their lineage to the stallion Hambletonian, the great-grandson of the English horse Messenger, who arrived in America in 1788. Harness racing appealed to Americans because it fostered egalitarianism: unhitched from its cart, any tradesmans horse could win at the track. Oliver Wendell Holmes in The Atlantic Monthly in 1857 observed: Wherever the trotting horse goes, he carries in his train brisk omnibuses, lively bakers carts, and therefore hot rolls, the jolly butchers wagon, the cheerful gig, the wholesome afternoon drive with wife and childall the forms of moral excellence. Nevertheless most good trotters were owned exclusively by prosperous businessmen, and the cost of the fine horses increased steadily from the 1850s to the 1870s. In 1869 Alden Goldsmith sold his eight-year-old mare Goldsmith Maid for $15,000; two years later, the

new owner sold her for $32,000. By 1881 the mare had won a total purse of $364,200. The leading trotter owners were steamship magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt and newspaper owner Robert Bonner, whose rivalry was legendary. Although a devout Presbyterian who frowned upon racing, Bonner could not contain his competitiveness as he encountered Vanderbilt on the avenues of New York City. On 13 May 1862 they met at Fashion Course on Long Island. Bonner won the $10,000 bet, then quickly announced that he would make a gift of the money to anyone who could beat his time.

Source

Elliot J. Gorn and Warren Goldstein, A Brief History of American Sports (New York: Hill & Wang, 1993);

Ivor Herbert, ed., Horse Racing: The Complete Guide to the World of the Turf (New York: St. Martins Press, 1981).

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horse racing

horse racing, trials of speed involving two or more horses. It includes races among harnessed horses with one of two particular gaits, among saddled Thoroughbreds (or, less frequently, quarterhorses) on a flat track, or among saddled horses over a turf course with obstacles to be jumped (steeplechase).

The Roots of Horse Racing

Horse races, today popular throughout most of the Western world as well as in other areas, were probably contested as early as 1500 BC in Egypt. The roots of harness racing extend back at least to early Greece, where chariot races were a part of the Olympic games. In the Roman era the chariot race became an entertainment for the masses; the Circus Maximus seated over 200,000 spectators. The constant and widespread desire for faster and stronger horses for work, military use, and sport led to the development of several specially bred strains.

In 12th-century England, Henry II mated the offspring of the speedy Arabian stallions bred in the 9th–11th cent. with his own powerful mares. The resultant breed drew proud owners into informal wagers and races to determine the superior horses and riders. The first public racecourse opened at London about 1174, and the "sport of kings" became a staple of fairs. As early as the 16th cent., prizes were awarded in English racing, but the 12th Earl of Derby originated (1780) the first event held on a sweepstakes basis (whereby the winner "sweeps" the stake offered) at his estate in Epsom; known as the Epsom Derby or English Derby, it continues to be held annually.

In the American colonies, horse racing's appeal was evident in the 17th cent. Informal races, often held on busy roads, gave way by century's end to formal contests at racetracks. Although racing waned during the Revolutionary period, it regained popularity afterward, and in 1823 a North-South challenge drew 60,000 spectators to Long Island's Union Course (N.Y.) for a contest of three four-mile heats between two horses.

Development of Modern Horse Racing

Steeplechase (the racing of horses over a course with hurdles and shallow water jumps to approximate country riding conditions) became popular in England and Ireland in the 19th cent. The Grand National Steeplechase, held annually since 1839 at Aintree course, Liverpool, England, is the most famous.

Harness racing, begun in the 1830s from the custom of informal carriage races, became very popular in the 1870s, and in 1891 the modern low-wheel sulky replaced the high-wheeler. Harness racing features two differently gaited standardbred horses—pacers (laterally gaited), which move with a swaying motion, bringing the right front and right hind legs forward at the same time, and trotters (diagonally gaited), which move with a high-stepping, straight ahead gait with left front and right hind legs moving forward in unison. Harness racing, formerly a favorite event mainly at U.S. country fairs, became increasingly popular after World War II at racing centers near urban areas. The United States Trotting Association (formed 1938) governs the sport. Notable harness races include the Hambletonian, the Kentucky Futurity, and the Little Brown Jug.

The first major thoroughbred racing in the United States was at the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., track (1863). Churchill Downs, at Louisville, Ky., opened its flat-racing track in 1875; other thoroughbred tracks soon appeared across the country. At that time, jockeys were often African Americans, but whites forced them from the saddle and effectively denied them riding opportunities until the latter part of the 20th cent., when Latin Americans and women also became some of the top jockeys. The Thoroughbred Racing Associations (founded 1942) is the leading regulatory organization in racing, but state racing commissions oversee racing within their borders. The use and abuse of drugs with racehorses, both for treating and masking pain and enhancing performance, has been a chronic problem in modern horse racing.

Historically the three most important U.S. flat-racing events (all limited to three-year-old horses) have been the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the Preakness at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park, on Long Island near New York City. Together these events are known as the Triple Crown, and such winners of all three as Citation (1948) and Secretariat (1973) are considered among the greatest horses in all racing. Since 1984 they have shared the limelight with the annual Breeder's Cup championship, a one-day event comprising seven races of differing conditions held at a premier course. Other important thoroughbred races include the St. Leger Stakes (Great Britain), Queen's Plate (Canada), Melbourne Cup (Australia), Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini (Argentina), Japan Derby, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (France), Preis von Europa (Germany), and Dubai Classic (United Arab Emirates).

Gambling and Horse Racing

Gambling has accompanied horse racing from the beginning, and persists despite attacks by reform groups and religious leaders. In the United States, various states, recognizing an opportunity for increased revenues, began legalizing and taxing betting at the track in the 19th cent. American tracks now use the parimutuel system of wagering, invented in France in the 1860s. All bets are pooled, the odds are based on the relative amounts bet on the horses, and wagering is on whether a horse will win, place (finish second), or show (run third). Some states now also operate facilities for off-track betting (OTB).

Bibliography

See R. Longrigg, The History of Horse Racing (1972); T. Ainslie, Ainslie's Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing (3d ed. 1986); R. Cassidy, The Cambridge Companion to Horseracing (2013).

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Horse Racing

Horse Racing

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Old World Models. Horse racing probably began as soon as humans domesticated horses. In England modern racing, as opposed to other types of competitive horsemanship like dressage, was first organized during the reign of Henry VIII. Cities sponsored races during festivals as just one of the many available entertainments. By 1600 there were a dozen or more English towns sponsoring races. In time silver trophies for first, second, and third places became commonplace, and towns built grandstands and marked off courses for the events. Spectators watched for free and betted on the outcome. Races were as long as four miles and were run in several heats, which rewarded stamina as well as speed. The first specialized racecourse was developed by James I at Newmarket by 1622. While some members of the royal court raced, others watched them from permanent stands. Newmarket became so identified with dissipated court life that when the Puritans came to power during the civil war, they demolished the stands and plowed up the course. The Restoration in 1660 brought to power Charles II, a fine, competitive rider who established

an annual race, the Plate, which he himself later won. Under him Newmarket became the fashion center of the nation. Other courses developed later. Queen Anne founded the famous races at Ascot and also established the breeding lines known as thoroughbred using horses of Arabian stock. These pedigrees would become formalized, and some of this stock would find its way to America.

Americas Newmarket. Informal races between riders on horseback undoubtedly occurred everywhere that there were horses. Formal horse racing was introduced to the colonies by New Yorks governor, Richard Nicolls, in 1668 when he sponsored an annual race at Hempstead Plain on Long Island. This oval course of two miles was named Newmarket after its English model. Races were run in the spring and fall, with the winners taking home an engraved silver porringer. The popularity of horse racing gave New York a second racetrack closer to the city by the 1730s when Church Farm was developed on Manhattan Island. In 1744 Peter De Lancey and the Honorable William Montague raced their horses, Ragged Kate and Monk, respectively, for a prize of £200, more than five times what a laborer might make in a year. Other tracks also opened in New York in the years before the Revolution.

Other Northern Courses. Puritan and Quaker disapproval of time-wasting entertainments such as horse racing meant that formal courses were slower in developing in New England and Pennsylvania. During the eighteenth century both Boston and Philadelphia held races. By 1720 horses ran at Cambridge and Rumney Marsh outside of Boston for money prizes. Race Street in Philadelphia led to the racecourse, and before 1726 Sassafras Street served as a straight racetrack. By 1761 races in Philadelphia were advertised in colonial newspapers, suggesting that those who wished to contain such sports had lost the battle.

The Chesapeake. Horse racing was one of the most popular sports in the South, and the Chesapeake (Maryland and Virginia) developed both the quarter race and the quarter horse. Races were run on a straight quarter-mile track rather than an oval course. The horses that ran this quarter mile were known for stamina and the ability to put on quick bursts of speed. These events operated under a variety of rules, agreed to before the race, which specified any handicap one horse might have and the

weight of the riders. Growing colonial wealth and a disposition toward competition and gambling led to better breeding and the importation of English blooded stock. The first recorded stallion was Bulle-Rock, sired by the Darley Arabian and sent to Virginia in 1730. The most famous imported horse was Janus, a grandson of the Godolphin Arabian, brought over in 1752. These imported horses were bred to local mares, producing a fast horse that could also go the distance. Their speed and stamina led to the same kind of course racing as in England and the Northern colonies.

The Lower South. Charleston was the center of horse racing in the Lower South. By 1734 racing was a semipublic sport advertised in the South Carolina Gazette. That year the prize was a saddle and bridle. The next year a jockey club organized. In their races horses ran one mile for prizes worth £100 at the York course. By 1743 there were monthly races there and a new course opened at Goose Creek. In 1754 a third racecourse opened on the Neck outside of Charleston. Prizes included not only money and trophies but also watches and, in 1744, a finely embroidered jacket.

Sources

Carl Bridenbaugh, Cities in the Wilderness: Urban Life in America 16251742 (New York: Capricorn Books, 1964);

Thomas S. Henricks, Disputed Pleasures: Sport and Society in PreindustrialEngland (New York: Greenwood Press, 1991);

John B. Irving, The South Carolina Jockey Club (Spartanburg, S.C.: Reprint Co., 1975);

Nancy L. Struna, People of Prowess: Sport, Leisure, and Labor in Early Anglo-America (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996).

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horse-racing

horse-racing consists of flat racing or jumping, ‘over the sticks’. Racing became popular during the 16th cent. and the first race-course with an annual fixture was established on the Roodee at Chester in 1540. Racing received support from successive monarchs. James I established a hunting stable at Newmarket where he bred horses, Charles I offered a gold cup as a prize for a race in 1634, and Charles II made it fashionable. Noblemen founded stables and became interested in breeding thoroughbred racehorses. Old Bald Meg (c.1659) is the oldest recorded mare in the General Studbook and it is argued that every thoroughbred has descended from her.

Racing expanded with courses springing up at Doncaster (1595), York (1709), Ascot (1711), Epsom (1730), Goodwood (1801), and Aintree (1827). In 1750 the Jockey Club was founded to regulate the sport. The first Racing Calendar was introduced in 1773 and stud books and jockeys' colours followed. Lord George Bentinck (1802–48), an influential horse breeder-owner, devised the flag start, race card, paddock parade, and much of modern race-course practice. Highlights of the flat season include the Derby, Oaks, and St Leger.

Steeple-chasing derived from horses racing each other cross-country to the nearest church steeple. The concept of a course with artificial fences originated at the Newmarket Craven meeting in 1794. A Grand Annual Steeplechase began at Cheltenham around 1815. In 1866 the Grand National Hunt Steeplechase Committee was formed to establish rules and the first Calendar appeared in 1867. It became the National Hunt Committee in 1889 and merged with the Jockey Club eighty years later. Highlights include the Grand National and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Horse-racing has become synonymous with betting. The on-course Totalizator introduced in 1929 and the Horserace Betting Levy Board founded in 1961 both aimed to distribute betting revenue for the good of the sport. A Joint Racing Board was established in 1968 to facilitate policy discussion between the Turf Authorities and the Levy Board.

Richard A. Smith

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horse racing

horse racing Sport in which horses, guided by jockeys, race over a course of predetermined length. Most popular is thoroughbred racing, although harness racing (in which horses draw a light two-wheeled carriage) is also popular. In the UK, thoroughbred racing includes flat racing organized by the Jockey Club, and hurdle racing and steeplechasing organized according to National Hunt rules. Horse racing began in Assyria in c.1500 bc. The world's oldest flat race is the English Derby, held annually at Epsom, Surrey, since 1780. It is one of the five English Classics: 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, Oaks, and St Leger. The Grand National steeplechase dates from 1839. See also equestrian sports

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