The history of horse racing

The history of horse racing is a fascinating one ... photo by CC user Jean Louis Théodore Géricault on

For those that like to pontificate on the story of things we hold dear in the present day, learning about the history of horse racing is a fascinating exploration into one of humankind’s favorite leisure activities.

If you count yourself among them, settle in and learn about the backstory of one of the greatest sports that ever was…

Ancient origins

It is generally agreed upon that horse racing got its start in prehistory. As such, it is impossible to gauge an exact point in time when humankind began to race steeds against each other, but we do know that this sport were among the most popular at the Ancient Olympic Games, where spectators watched horse-drawn chariots and mounted horses vie for supremacy.

The Romans featured horses in their arenas and at the Colosseum, but the art of horsemanship and the finest bloodlines is understood to have come from Arabia and Asia. It was from these parts of the world that Europeans brought back these powerful beasts during the Crusades in the Middle Ages.

Little did they know that it would give rise to one of this continent’s most popular spectator sports in the centuries that followed.

Organized racing begins to take shape

While informal racing went on throughout much of the Medieval period in Europe, it was Louis XVI of France that organized the first documented race in 1651.

Gaming between spectators took place at this event, an occurrence that has defined much of the excitement in this sport to this day. If you are interested to learn how betting works in present day races like the St. Patrick’s Day race at the Cheltenham Festival, simply click here…

Charles II of the British Isles that founded the first organized race series in England with prize money involved in the mid 17th century.

Known as the King’s Plate, the first running took place in 1666, and it was the monarch himself that won. Known today as the Newmarket Town Plate, this race takes place on July 6th this year.

The modern age dawns as events go international

With extensive empire building in the New World dominating much of the 18th and 19th century, it was at this time that the sport of horse racing began to go international.

The first international race by British standards was held at Newmarket Racecourse on Long Island, NY in 1664, but it was during the 1800’s when the now internationally famous race series like the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, and the Melbourne Cup were founded.

Racing clubs and events began to pop up in Canada, South Africa and Australia as well, to name a few places.