From local meets to the big national events, there are an estimated 10,000 horse races held in the UK each year, bringing around £4 billion in off-course sports betting alone. And whether you are a seasoned pro, or like to place an occasional wager you need to know the types of bets inside out and having the insider intel on the world of horse racing just makes it an even more fascinating sport to follow.
So, if you want to brush up on your horse racing knowledge, then read on as we have put together some of our favourite facts about this most regal of spectator sports.
- The earliest recorded horse races were chariot racing in ancient Rome, although it is widely considered that horses were deliberately raced as a spectator sport as far back as 4,500BC, in Central Asia.
- All modern racehorses can be traced back to three original Arabian stallions, brought to the UK in the 17th and 18th Centuries from and bred with native mares to create the stunning thoroughbred breed, renowned for its stamina and speed.
- Newmarket, the headquarters of British horseracing was founded by King James 1, but it was Queen Anne in the 18th Century who transformed it into a professional sport, where trackside bets could be placed which has now become a big part of the sport, at the tracks or online with sites like Timeform. A huge racing fan, Queen Anne also created Ascot.
- The arrival of the Tote, in 1928, paved the way for more organised, widespread betting, moving the sport of horse racing into the mainstream with the introduction of off-course betting.
- Jockeys are an elite group of sportspeople, with just 450 professional and 300 amateurs licensed in the UK. In comparison, there are an estimated 14,000 racehorses in Britain, either racing or in training.
- Today’s thoroughbreds typically weigh around 1,000 pounds and are considered medium-sized horses. All racehorses (in the northern hemisphere) share a universal birthday on January 1. This shared birthday is so that horses can be more easily grouped by age for competition.
- There are two types of horse races in the UK – flat race and the jump (also known as the National Hunt). In a jump race, horses compete over a series of hurdles on a track measuring between two and 4.5 miles. A flat race is shorter – between ½ a mile to around 2.5 miles – and is run over a straight or oval track with no hurdles or jumps.
- A handicap is a type of racing, not an indication of an individual horse’s ability! Handicapping in racing refers to the allocation of different weights to different horses to create a ‘level playing field’ and even up the competition.
- While the National Hunt races such as The Grand National are the punters’ favourite, the Classics are the most sought-after prizes – for both trainers and sports bettors. There are five Classics – The Derby, the Oaks, the 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas and the St. Leger and are considered the ultimate test in traditional flat racing.
- Irish-bred and trained Arkle is widely considered the first superstar of British horse racing. A gifted hurdler and national hunt competitor, Arkle took the racetrack by storm in the 1960s, scooping the Cheltenham Gold Cup three years in a row.
One of the fastest animals on the planet, thoroughbreds can run 100m in around five seconds. The fastest horses ever recorded in a race, include famous names such as Seabiscuit, Black Caviar and Secretariat, who still holds the world record for a dirt track, since setting the pace back in 1973.