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Horse racing facts

Updated on December 22, 2011

This selection of interesting horse racing facts covers the beginning of racing hundreds of years ago to the present day.

There's information on U.S. racing and British racing, as well as some historical trivia and little known pieces of general knowledge such as when racehorses are mated so their offspring get the best possible start in life against competitors.

Hopefully there's information here that's new to some people who are life-long racing fans, but also enough to whet the appetite of those taking an interest in the sport. Enjoy.

  • American racehorses run in the opposite direction to their British counterparts. This is due largely to Colonel William Whitley, who had such an aversion to all things British during the American Revolution that he designed his own clay racetrack to run counter to the turf tracks of the British
  • In 1973, the racehorse Secretariat set new track records at the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness and a new world record in the Belmont Stakes. These three wins garnered secretariat the prestigious Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing
  • The record for high jumping was set by an ex-racehorse named Huaso, who at the age of 16 jumped 8 feet 1.25 inches in 1949. In 1902, before such records were kept, however, thoroughbred mare Heatherbloom is said to have jumped 8 feet 2 inches

  • Horse racing has been popular for many centuries, beginning with the Roman chariot races
  • There are three categories of horse racing: flat racing, steeple racing, and harness racing
  • The winner of the first Belmont Stakes was Ruthless in 1867

  • The inaugural Kentucky Derby was run in 1875 and was won by Aristides
  • Nearly 90 per cent of all thoroughbred horses are descended from a seventeenth century stallion named Eclipse
  • In the U.S. and Australia, first-place winners at horse shows receive blue ribbons. In Canada, New Zealand and Great Britain they are given a red ribbon while in the Netherlands an orange ribbon is awarded.
  • The first horse to win the Triple Crown in a trotting race was Scott Frost in 1955
  • A horse named Citation won the most consecutive races ever. He won 16 on-the-trot (excuse the pun!)between 1948 and 1950
  • In 2001, England announced a one-week ban on all horse racing after an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease among livestock
  • The famous racehorse Seabiscuit, the grandson of Man o’War, became something of a national celebrity during the Great Depression. He later had a film and book made about his life.
  • Wild horses usually give birth in mid to late spring, but racing horses are bred to be born as close to January 1 as possible. This will give them a size advantage when competing against other horses born later in the year
  • The word jockey originally referred to shady horse –dealers and other vagabonds during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
  • The first winner of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing was Sir Barton in 1919
  • The last horse to win the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing was a three-year-old named Affirmed in 1978
  • In the northern hemisphere, all racehorses celebrate their birthdays on January 1
  • The official birthday given to all horses in the southern hemisphere is August 1
  • In harness racing, the difference between trotters and pacers is that trotters use a diagonal gait while pacers employ a lateral gait


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      J D 5 years ago

      When you say Citation won the most consecutive races, why can't you include the likes of Kincsem who was unbeaten in 54 races?

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      Emma-lei 5 years ago