Horse racing has been a part of British sporting culture for hundreds of years. It’s one of the oldest sports that is still competed today and even in this modern era, has evolved into a spearhead of the not only the sporting world, but betting industries. Let’s take a look back in time to where horse racing began.
Whilst some records contradict others, it is widely believed that the first race meeting was held back in 1539 at the Chester Roodeye racecourse in February. The course still boasts today that it was the first race course in Britain and who are we to argue?
It wasn’t until the 17th century that the royal family started to become increasingly involved with horse racing. King James I was said to have visited Newmarket, set up a home there and been founder of their new race course. But it was Charles II who established the first race meeting at Newmarket in 1664 and then the sport really started to take hold. A set of official rules were created and events run accordingly.
The world renowned Ascot race course was founded in 1711 by Queen Anne who then went on to create the Her Majesty’s Plate. The plate is said to be the biggest event of its time with more and more courses being constructed throughout the British Isles.
1750 was a breakthrough year for British horse racing with the formation of the Jockey Club. It was this group that had the job of setting rules and regulations for the sport to combat against the already corrupt goings on that were taking place.
1764 saw a remarkable feat of the horse Eclipse foaling. Whilst that may not seem so ‘remarkable’, what is, is that over 80% of race horses that are running today are said to be dated back to him.
Over the next century or so some of the biggest races in the world were set up (and still household names today) such as the Oaks, St Leger, 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas, Grand National and many more.
As the horse racing continued to grow and started to have massive international appeal, the sport employed a host of governing bodies from 1866 onwards starting with the National Hunt Committee. Others include The Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association, Racehorse Owners Association, Horserace Betting Levy Board and the Doncaster Blackstock Sales.
The modern era of horse racing saw changes such as first flat races, photo finishes and legalised betting away from race courses. High street betting has long been thought of as the saving grace of horse racing in what was heading towards a declining market.
The 1950s and 1960s saw horse racing being brought to our screens for the first time and in the current day there are a number of TV channels totally dedicated to horse racing. Whilst TV has increased exposure, the numbers at tracks around the country have seen a decline. Revenue from online bookmakers has certainly helped the sport and has got horse racing to the point it’s at now.