The Evolution of Horse Racing
Horse racing, the contest of speed, is a centuries-old activity, but with technological advances and the information age, it has become an international sport that has captured the attention of millions. Originally, it was a contest of speed between two noblemen. Today, it is a global sport that takes place in countries from Argentina to Uruguay, from Japan to Venezuela.
Horse racing dates back to antiquity, with archeological records indicating that races were held in Egypt, Greece, and Babylon. Eventually, racing spread to Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. During the reign of Louis XIV, racing based on gambling was popular. During this period, the French King imposed extra weight on foreign horses, while requiring that certificates of origin be produced for all race horses.
A horse’s performance is often influenced by its breed, age, gender, and training. The goal of handicapping is to set a standard for all horses so they can be equally matched. Some handicaps are based on the track, while others are centrally determined.
Races are conducted on various tracks throughout the world. They vary in surface from dirt to turf. Tracks are usually oval in shape. While the most common type is flat, a figure-of-eight track is also used in Great Britain.
In the United States, the Belmont Stakes was first held in 1867. It is the culmination of the American Triple Crown, and is considered the most prestigious thoroughbred race in the country. Traditionally, the prize money is split among the first three finishers.
Initially, races were held on a small scale. The two-mile course was laid out on the plains of Long Island. But as demand for races grew, open events with larger fields were produced. There were rules about how far from the starting line a horse could be ridden.
After the Civil War, speed became a major goal. Racing officials were forced to keep up with new drugs, growth hormones, and antipsychotics. However, they didn’t have the capacity to monitor these new chemicals. Luckily, MRI scanners and X-rays are now available to detect major health conditions.
The horse’s coat, position relative to the inside barrier, and the jockey’s whip are also factors in how a horse performs. It is important for a racer to ride safely, since the muscles and tendons of the lower leg are exposed to immense pressure.
In the twentieth century, the totalizator was introduced, allowing racetracks to mechanically record bets and give an instant reflection of the odds on each horse. As a result, the sport of horse racing has expanded to include a variety of specialty wagers, including daily doubles, doubles on any number of races, and the triple crown.
Although betting on horses is popular, it is illegal in California. To prevent a criminal element from invading the racetracks, the state banned wagering on racing in 1909. This ban was lifted in 1933, but it was only after a ballot measure that rescinded the law.