England has a long history in many sports, but horse racing has one of the oldest and most interesting of all. This was a noble sport that began way back in around the 12th century when the English knights came back from the crusades and brought back with them beautiful Arab horses, which they bred with domestic English horses. As a result we ended up with thoroughbreds, which is still the horse that we use in horse racing to this day.
What started off as a fun spectator sport under the reign of Charles II soon became a more profitable affair. People started placing money on the horses to win and currently there are so many different horse racing strategies and horse racing betting tips that it has now become just as profitable to bet on the horses as it was to race and win.
Horse Racing in the 17th – 18th Century
The first real horse racing started when Charles II started racing two horses against each other in open fields as well as on private courses. Soon after, winners were awarded prizes. It was between 1660 and 1685 that Newmarket officially became the first UK venue for horse racing.
It was in the early 1700s, under the reign of Queen Anne, that horse racing moved on from being between two horses to being a race between several horses. This was also when betting on the horses really started. Queen Anne popularised the sport and more specialised dedicated horse racing courses were opened, including Ascot.
Later on in the 1700s horse racing became even more serious. This was embodied by the founding of The Jockey Club, which was established at Newmarket amongst the horse racing elite. Also, it was in 1793 that James Weatherby first published ‘An Introduction to a General Stud Book’. This was used to record the pedigree of every foal that was born to a race horse. Because of this book, all thoroughbreds can now be traced back to one of the three original foundation sires: Byerly Turk, Darley Arabian or Godolphin Arabian.
Horse Racing 19th – 20th Century
At the beginning of the 19th Century, in 1815, the five classic British horse races were originally established; these were the: 2,000 Guineas Stakes, 1,000 Guineas Stakes, Epsom Oaks, Epsom Derby and St Leger Stakes. However, it wasn’t until 1839 that the most recognised British horse race first took place – The Grand National. This took place in Aintree. Ironically, the very first winner of the race was named Lottery – a lucky name for a lucky horse. The beauty was ridden to victory by Jem Mason.
In 1865 the idea of the steeplechase was taken further with the formation of the National Hunt Committee. The National Hunt Steeplechase was then formed and this steeplechase would then form part of an annual race meeting that was staged at various race tracks every year. This popular race quickly established itself on the annual racing calendar.
Up until this time, betting on the horse was relatively unofficial and an underground operation. However, in 1928, The Tote was formed and horse racing betting moved up to the next level. It was the only UK organisation that was allowed to run pool betting on horse racing. It was initially set up by Winston Churchill as a government appointed board. Its main aim was to provide safe state controlled betting as an alternative to the illegal and underground bookmakers that were currently in operation. The profits from this were the put back into horse racing. It was this organisation that brought main stream horse racing betting onto the streets and into the lives of the general public.
The Introduction of Technology
In the 1940s, technology was happening – and that affected the sport of horse racing – and the results of betting on it. It was in 1947 that the very first photo finish happened. Before this, judges had to rely on what they saw – and as such, there were many dead heat results as it was hard to see exactly who crossed the line first. However, on 22 April, at Epsom, the first photo-finish camera placed salubrious as the winner over Parhelion in the Great Metropolitan Handicap.
It wasn’t until the 1950s that you could actually watch the races from your front room. Up until this time, you had to go to the racecourse. However, now you could watch the races from the comfort of your front room. Then, in 1961, high street betting shops – away from the race course – were legalised… this meant you could place a bet and watch the race without even going near a racecourse. This widened its appeal for everyone and made horse racing betting much easier and far more widespread. Then, of course, in the 1970s, we had our very first celebrity horse – Red Rum who became the most beloved icon of horse racing in the UK.
Horse Racing in the 21st Century
Horse racing finally arrived in the 21st century with the introduction of online betting shops; not only do you not need to go to a race course to bet – now you don’t even need to leave your house to have a flutter.
Now, after football, horse racing is the second most watched televised sport within the UK. Despite having been around for over three centuries, its popularity has increased with every year that has passed. These days it’s not just the elite that watch the races; you can see a variety of people enjoying a day out at the races. There’s Ladies Day at Ascot as well as other well-loved events that joins people from all different backgrounds together.
But what about the future? Well, as technology evolves, so will horse racing. In fact, now there are young horses that are being developed and trained without jockeys. These horses are being trained in Berkshire, on an undercover track. To do this they use a machine that costs in the region of €20,000,000. It is believed that by removing jockeys from training, it will remove the chances of human error, which means the horse will have more chance of success; it is also hoped that these machines and the technology will also improve the overall welfare of the horses. But, is this really going to work? How can you train a race horse without putting a rider on its back?
One thing’s for sure, horse racing is evolving with the times and will always do so. Despite the different climates in which we have lived, the popularity of horse racing and horse racing betting has never declined. Whatever the future holds, there’s always be horse racing, new ways of training and even more ways to win with more betting tips and strategies than ever before. If you’re a horse racing fan, you’ll always be on to a winner.