Horse Racing and Betting
Known world-wide as the “sport of Kings” horse racing and horse race betting dates back at least as far as the Greek civilizations of 2500 BC. Having first used their domesticated horses in chariot races, they soon determined that an even more exciting form of horse racing would be to have a human rider seated on the horse - and the now familiar style of horse racing began. However, we wouldn’t have recognized the courses over which these horse races were run, as the modern style of horse racing tracks that we now all know did not appear until the 1600s in England. A universally popular sport there are three main forms of horse racing; thoroughbred, jumps and harness.
Of these three types of horse racing thoroughbred racing is widely accepted to be the most popular and purest form of horse racing. A thoroughbred horse is one whose parentage can be proven to arise from one of the three founding sires. To understand the term founding sires we have to step back in time again to England in the 17th and 18th centuries. Following on from the development of the early horse racing tracks in England they naturally wanted to have only the best horses racing on them. To this extent the body responsible for horse racing in England, The Jockey Club, determined that three sires from the middle-east fitted the bill; they were the Byerly Turk (1680), the Darley Arabian (1704) and the Godolphin Arabian (1729). Over time those three sires were mated with 74 mares of a variety of breeds - and only their descendants can be classed as a thoroughbred horse for racing, or indeed stud/breeding, purposes. In the USA - three of the biggest horse races of the year involve thoroughbreds racing on the flat at the Triple Crown horse races.
Jumps horse racing, also known as steeplechase horse racing, introduces a series of obstacles such as fences and ditches to the race track, creating a racing course that recreates horse races in conditions similar to those that might be found when out hunting on horses in the country-side. In the USA two types of jumps racing exist: National fences - that are constructed out of brush material that ‘gives’ if clipped by the horse and the more unyielding Timber fences - which are solid timber rails that the horse must clear to jump. Jumps racing is pretty well confined to the eastern states of America. The single biggest horse betting on a jumps race is the Breeder’s Cup Grand National Steeplechase at Far Hills in New Jersey. Worth $300,000 to the winner it is also one of the biggest horse betting days of the year. Generally speaking jumps, or steeplechase horses, are those that have been specifically bred as cross-country horses, indeed these days there is a system of cross-country thoroughbreds.
Harness horse racing
Harness racing is simply a throw-back to the very earliest horse races, putting the horse in a harness that pulls a small and lightweight two wheeled cart, with a ‘jockey’ sitting in it to drive and steer the horse. The horses used in these races are said to be standard bred, horses capable of trotting or pacing one mile in a standard time and whose parents had also previously met the breed standard. In the USA most harness horse races are pacing rather than trotting ones.
Horse betting at the races
Over 130 race tracks spread over 35 state give plenty of opportunity to enjoy the spectacle that is horse racing - whether you enjoy betting on horse races or just enjoy seeing the races themselves. Whether you’re at one of the prestigious Triple Crown horse races or just a local horse race meeting - if you are going to place a bet you need to understand something of the different horse’s heritage and recent races. Generally referred to as knowing ‘the form’, being prepared to research the parentage of a horse and how well it did in recent races can increase your likelihood of winning on a horse race bet. The more you research into the form of horses you’ll see that some race better in dry/hard conditions whilst others might do better in softer/wetter ones; which will often come down to a combination of their breeding and training. Having said that, if you fancy placing a bet on a horse just because it has a nice name, looks pretty or strong etc - then why not? Oh yes, and don’t forget that any winnings from a horse race bet will be subject to taxes!