How horse racing has evolved over time

How horse racing has evolved over time

One of the greatest spectacle events in the world is horse racing. It is therefore no surprise that the Melbourne Cup is the race that stops the nation. There is a lot of tradition and history in horse racing. It is a sport that has been practiced since ancient times and now in its modern form, it remains a popular spectacle among the aristocrats and royalty of the United Kingdom, being dubbed the ‘Sport of Kings’. Throughout the ages, the human race has witnessed many sports come and go, but the spectacle of the horse-race remains as popular as it was a millennium ago. We trace back the origins of the sport to its birth, and how it has evolved over the centuries into the modern form that we know today.

horse racing

Early history

Horse racing was common in many cultures. However, the formal documentation of the sport can be traced back to the Pan-Hellenic games and the ancient Greek Olympics in 648 BC. While the event was a horse and chariot event with competitors using up to four horses, it proved to be one of the most popular events of the games. This has continued in history through the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, with their popular industries of chariot and mounted horse racing; as well as in today’s popular thoroughbred racing.

Evolution of racing types

Over the years, racing has evolved into different forms. The most popular is the flat racing where the horses will gallop as fast as they can in a bid to win between two points on a straight or oval track. Jumps racing (also known as steeplechasing) are popular in the UK and Ireland. Harness racing, which involves pulling a driver in a sulky (A lightweight cart with two wheels). And endurance racing where horses travel across country tracks over extreme distances of forty to one hundred and sixty kilometers.

horse racing

Origins of the purse

Originally, the winner would collect their winnings in a silk purse at the end of the finish line. Nowadays, the jockeys and the horse owners compete for the modern day purse, that is the overall prize money for the event.

From horsing around to picking a good winner!

Betting has evolved to provide punters with a variety of different betting options. Historically, people would punt on which horse to win. Over the years, a variety of punting options have been developed including betting on the horse to place, betting on the horse to show, betting on a trifecta or quinella or more. Additionally, access to information and statistics have become more readily available to the public for them to do their own research and to calculate the odds into their favor when placing bets.

Better veterinary practices that reduce the risk of flogging a dead horse.

This isn’t to make it sound literal. But veterinary practices have improved dramatically over the years. Horses health can be managed better as horse owners carefully invest their time, resources and money into horses that they predict will be a winner.

Corruption – The Trojan horse in horse racing.

Unfortunately throughout the ages, the sport has faced allegations of corruption and drug use. Drug testing has evolved tremendously over the years. Even though it has been disapproved in the sport, testing was so primitive historically that many racehorse owners got away with their doped up thoroughbreds. Furthermore, there are scandals that have historically and still continue to hinder the sport with bookies accused of fixing and collusion. The racing community has taken proactive measures to clean up the bookmaking side of horse racing.

horse racing

Stud life!

Horses work hard in their career. When they retire, they can play even harder. One of the perks of becoming a champion racehorse is how they get to live out the rest of their retired years. Pedigree thoroughbred horses are in high demand. Just under a century ago, it was expected that champion horses would stud on average 40 mares. However, this number has increased dramatically with breeding horses shuttled between the northern and southern hemisphere for breeding. Shuttle stallions can be bred to as many as 400 mares in a single year. The price for a foal from a championship-winning racehorse can net the owners hundreds of thousands or millions in selling these foals to avid bidders.

Whether people come to watch, to bet or to show off their presence at a racing event, it all ends up being horseplay.

As the years have gone on, the significance of horse racing has shifted depending on the type of event. Historically, it was an event for the affluent. Over the years, the interest has become widespread regardless of class or stature. People’s participation in the event through race attendances or betting at odds to beat the bookies continues to raise the stakes of horse racing.