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All About Horse Racing

Updated on December 6, 2010


Horse racing is commonly known as, ‘sports of royalty and nobility.’ It is also widely recognized as King’s Sports and is an extremely organized and commercialized game.

The most common three types of horse racing are:

  •  Flat Racing
  •  Harness Racing
  •  Steeplechasing

These races have three key components; the horse with a saddle, a riding jockey, and the racing tracks. The weights are allocated on the basis of age, sex, past records and jockey’s experience. Flat races offer no hurdles in the race and are feasible in all weathers. The main season is from autumn to spring, while in summers, the soil is too hard for horses. In harness racing and steeplechasing, different obstacles are in place, ranging from fences to water jumps. These races have longer courses to test stamina of the horse and skill of the jockey.


From first millennium B.C., the chariot races were known and spread. This sport started flourishing in ancient Greek; however, in roman times, it was not that emphasized. So, it remained less popular till the fall of Rome in 5th century A.D.

In the 6th century, Middle East Arab Horses were introduced by Muslims. These horses were swift with racial superiority. This breed was unknown to the Europeans till now. An Arab horse was imported to England by king Henry 1, which was mated to get Anglo Arab breeds of horses.

Racecourse of Roman times was constructed at London in 1174, where saddle racing became famous. These races were normally up to the distance of 4 miles. Reforms and patronization was brought to horse riding by King Charles II.

In the United States, first race course was built in North American Long Island. Descendants of Darley Arabian were brought to Virginia. Pennsylvania Virginia and Maryland became the house of horse racing in U.S.

As the interest of people in horses grew in 19th century, a joint club called, ‘The Jockey Club’ evolved, which was an American organization resembling The British Jockey Club. This club served as a regulatory authority, which ensured breeding maintenance and racing. This entity was further upgraded to The Bureau of Regularity American Thoroughbreds.

In 20th century, after the reformers demanded to outlaw betting and bookmaking in different states, Florida and California became an industry with horse races scheduled to year length activity.

In 1942, with the objective of encouraging ethical horse racing, Thoroughbred Racing Association of the U.S was formed. Its headquarters is in New York. This sport is famous around the world including Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.


Thoroughbred horses have a North African origin (1689-1724), and they have one of the following ancestors:

  • The Darley Arabian
  • The Byerly Turk
  •  Godolphin Barb

The registration of these horses started in 1791 in British books and in 1873 in U.S Pedigree registers.

Age of horses:

Thoroughbred horses start their training at the age of two years, when they are trained to carry weight and a rider. Besides, at three to five years of age, some may get ready to race and start competing by the age of 10. However, maintenance and training are the prime factors in this regard.

Terminologies for Race Horses:

There are few exclusive terminologies with respect to horses; the female horses under the age of 5 are called ‘fillies’ and afterwards called as ‘mere.’ The male horses with age less than five are called ‘gelding’ or ‘colt’ and after reaching five are simply named as ‘stallions.’


Champion horses are treated with special care and extra respect, as they bring not only the prize money, but also bring benefits of stud fees from the industry. This is due to the fact that offspring of these horses are expected to be a champion too.

Famous Horses:

Race Courses

The racecourses in horse riding have no pre-defined dimensions and they are non-uniformed as compared to the other sports. The British courses are normally composed of turfs, where horses can race both clockwise and anti-clockwise. In contrast, the Canadian and American horse racing tracks are oval, extending to one mile. The outer loam comprises of a racing strip, which is parallel and may have grass or turf surface.

The most common 3 year old races are three in America:

  •  The Preakness Stakes
  •  Belmont Stakes
  •  Triple Crown/Kentucky Derby

The British three most popular horse races are:

  •  Saint Leger Stakes
  •  Two Thousand Guineas
  •  Epsom Derby

Types of Horse Racing

Each race comprises of few furlongs ranging from 6-9 (3/4 miles to 1, 1/8 miles). Races may be independent upon sexes or may involve only one sex horses. Other classifications are as under:




Claiming Events


 These races are called stakes because the owner has to pay an entry fee to take part into it. This amount added up with the course amount, is awarded to the winner. Further rulings involve:

1.       Same age horses take part in these races.

2.       Same weights are allocated to each horse

3.       Deductions, if required are carried out afterwards

4.       Fillies are privileged in comparison to colts


1.       Horses have different ages

2.       Superior horses have greater weights

3.       Lighter weights for less talented horses to equalize the horses

4.       Have to complete the race in equal time


1.       Past performance is the criteria for race entry

2.       Money and Races won are the key deciding factors

Claiming Races

1.       It can be considered a selling point of a horse

2.       There is a preset price for each horse

3.       Lottery is done, in case of more than one buyers

Match Race

1.       Head to head race of best horses of the season

Other races include walkovers, quarter horse races and endurance races.


The race course officials regulate races and implement rules and regulations to the contestants. The condition of horses is checked properly before the commencement of a race. It is ensured that the horse is not medicated or drug-fed for improved performance. All precautionary measures are taken to making it a fair play.

Film Patrol is responsible for the recording of races; high speed cameras at the finish line declare the results. Disqualification and penalization is done, if the Stewards of the Jockey Club specify any reason. Racing Commission International is also a legalized body to cover rulings on the horse racing.


A jockey must have the following specifications

Height = 5 feet

Weight = 48 kg

Jockey is given with weight allowances and an agreed percentage, if he wins the race.

Clothing of a jockey is called “silks,” which has colored patronized shirts, with caps and an ID of the owner.


The trainer also gets a percentage of winning money, if the horse wins. They maintain condition of the horse and increase its stamina for the race. It is also the duty of a trainer to analyze maximum capacity of the horse and the type of race it should enter.

Racing Procedures

These involve meetings consisting of 10 races. During each race, the horses are saddled, jockeys are ridding their respective horses in the paddock area, the spectators are viewing and the horses are in their stalls. The starting gate opens as the button to all the doors open, with a shooting of a gun and thus the race begins.


It depends upon the type of stamina and training of the horse. If the horse has a high speed at the start, it is going to slow down at the end. Hence, the jockey would try to cover as much distance as he can, leaving all the opponents behind, before the horse slows down.

On the other hand, if the horse takes time to get pace, jockey would not force the horse at start, instead he would speed it up gradually to get maximum speed before the end of the race course. Eventually, the best strategy is right move at the right time.

Betting & Types of Betting:

Simple betting or straight betting occurs when you bet on a horse and it wins.

Sweepstakes is the type of betting, in which you have to invest large stake, and it pays more if your horse wins.

Bookmaking is done by offering an odd against each horse. The bets are accepted on predictions. For shorter odds, a win is likely to happen.

Pari-mutuel Betting revolves around betting on the calculation of total amount on one horse compared with the total betted on all horses. A device called ‘totalizer’ estimates this amount on a toted board, in a two minutes time.

Perfecta is the amount, if the exact horse you defined, wins. In other cases, either you have to predict the first two or three position holder horses, or first position holder in two consecutive matches.


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