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UK Horse Racing – A Brief History of the Sport of Kings


Horse racing is rumoured to have begun back in the days of the Greeks. As with countless other events in history, the Romans then picked up on it, and it made one of the greatly followed sports of its day. The founders of the Olympics, The Greeks, included this sport in the event itself, and this helped maintain its popularity.

UK horse racing goes back a good few centuries. During the Crusades, a number of Arabian stallions were brought back at this time and a breeding business appeared, mixing the Arabian horses with European breeds in order to enhance strength and stamina .This created the baseline of today’s thoroughbred.

This new industry was however not low-cost, and so only until the 18th century was it only aristocratic folk, royal families, and prosperous people who involved themselves in the sport. The commoners were kept on the sidelines either as stable staff, or just as spectators.

Charles II as well as Queen Anne were proven to have been obsessed with horse racing in the UK, and that both had not only private races, but also public horse racing competitions held through their own initiatives.

A number of racetracks throughout Europe have been around for centuries, and during the 16th century UK horse racing brought into being its own Classics.

Before the USA had the American Jockey Club, the UK had by now established its own governing body, the Jockey Club. European countries almost immediately followed.

The UK Jockey Club was established by racings elite of the day, and continued to be in charge of horse racing until only recently. This club became the overseer of all races, racetracks, breeding, and rules and regulations. In short, they founded the sport we know today during 1750s. The Jockey Club also controlled the breeding lines.

James Weatherby, an official at the Jockey Club was the first to distinguish the founding sires of the stallions that we now know as Thoroughbreds, and just about all breeding lines we have today go all the way back to those days.

Throughout the advancement of the sport, several race types were created. These are known as the Classics.

Among the most well established is the St. Leger that was founded in 1776, the Oaks which was formed 3 years later, the following year produced the Derby, then the 2,000 Guineas in 1809 and 1000 Guineas 5 years after.

All these, along with many other races, were produced through the formation of the Jockey Club, and began the basics of what we know today as pattern racing.

St. Leger

The St. Leger was founded by a retired Irish soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony St Leger. The very first race was held on September 24, 1776. It is the longest race amid the English Classics, which ran over 1m and 6f and 132 yards.

The Derby

This horse race took root when it was devised by Edward Smith Stanley, the Earl of Derby, during 1779. Along with his acquaintances, they intended to race only among themselves over 1 miles and half a furlong.

These are just two of the most well known English Classics. UK horse racing now has a large number of Group 1 races, with major highlight races at Espom, Goodwood, Newmarket and known the world over, Royal Ascot.

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