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A Brief History Of Horse Racing In The US
US Horse Racing

A Brief History Of Horse Racing In The US

Horse racing is undoubtedly one of the greatest sports in the United States. It generates millions of dollars each and every year. Plus, it attracts fans from far and wide. While most fans are familiar with the top races in the United States, a lot of people do not fully understand the history of the sport.

How did it get to the point where it is today? How did horse racing start in the United States? Below, you’re going to find a brief history of horse racing in the United States.

The Start

British settlers are responsible for bringing horses and horse racing to the United States. Horse racing in America actually dates back to 1665. This makes it one of the oldest sports in the United States. During this year, the Newmarket Course in Salisbury, New York was established. Today, the course would be located in Hempstead Plains in Long Island. The very first racing meet in North America was overseen by the state’s colonial governor, Richard Nicolls. Since then, horse racing in the United States has grown far more popular than ever before.

The American Stud Book

American horse racing took a big step in 1868. At this time, the American stud Book was started. This helped to ignite organized horse racing throughout the United States. By 1890, America had 314 operational tracks. In 1894, the American Jockey Club was created. In the early 20th century, anti-gambling sentiment led to many states banning bookmaking. This almost eliminated horse racing in the country.

That all changed when pari-mutuel betting was introduced to the public in 1908. This helped to bring horse racing back to the forefront. Up until World War II, horse racing remained immensely popular. After that, America’s horse racing scene hit another roadblock.

The Triple Crown

The Triple Crown has undoubtedly helped to make America one of the best countries for horse racing. After the sport died down a little during WW2, the Triple Crown brought it back to the spotlight. The Triple Crown includes three races. The races include the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. Many trainers work diligently to ensure that their horses are able to win all three racers. While all three races are very important, the Kentucky Derby tends to be horse racing’s highest traditional point in the United States.

This race is always held on the first Saturday of May. It takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It is also the first step of the Triple Crown.

The Breeders’ Cup

The Breeders’ Cup doesn’t receive as much attention as the Triple Crown. Nevertheless, it holds a special place in horse racing history in the United States. This specific event is usually held in late October or early November. And, the tracks change every year. It serves great importance in terms of determining which horse will receive the American Horse of the Year award. It also helps to declare annual Eclipse Award divisional award winner. This event includes 13 races, which are held over a period of two days. Today, more than $28 million in prize money is handed out during the course of the event.

Horse Racing Types

The horse racing types include:

Harness Racing – In harness racing, horses either pace or trot around the track, while pulling a sulky with a driver. The racing breeds utilized in American and Australian harness racing Standardbreds. The racing breeds utilized in European harness racing is the Standardbred and French and Russian Trotter. In some geographical areas, the Scandinavian cold blood trotter and Finnhorses are utilized in harness racing.

Flat Racing – As one of the most common and popular forms of racing around the world, flat racing requires horses to gallop between two points around the track. While most flat racing tracks are oval, Ireland and Britain utilize varying shapes, such as a figure of eight. The surfaces also vary, but in Asia and North America most flat racing tracks are dirt and in Europe turf is more common. However, some tracks are transitioning to synthetic surfaces, like Tapeta and Polytrack.

Jump Racing – Jump racing (Steeplechasing) is more common in Ireland, France, and the United Kingdom. In this type of racing, horses are required to complete on courses with obstacles, such as open ditches, water, and fences.

Endurance Racing – Endurance racing is where horses run varying distances, ranging anywhere from 40 to 161 kilometers or 25 to 100 miles. However, there are a few short tracks that are only 10 miles and tracks that are longer than 100 miles. Endurance racing typically lasts over several days, with the total length divided into categories.


Over the years, science has attempted to discover what makes a successful breeding system, which is capable of creating champions. To date, science has not been able to come up with any conclusive results. Nevertheless, breeders have become more and more successful over the years by sticking with two basic rules. They believe that horses with excellent racing skills will be much more likely to create horses with great racing skills as well. They also believe that horses with specific pedigrees will be able to pass them along to their offspring. Male thoroughbreds or stallions almost always have the highest breeding value. This is the case because they can mate with roughly 40 mares each year.

Today, there are farms in the United States that produce foals for sales. The farms that sell these foals at auction are referred to as commercial breeders. There are plenty of farms out there. However, the most successful today include Spendthrift Farms, Claiborne Farms, Bluegrass Farms and Gainsworthy Farm. All of these farms are located in the state of Kentucky. There are also farms that produce foals for racing. These farms are referred to as home breeders.

Calumet Farms, Green-tree Stable and Harbor View Farm fit into this category. This has changed significantly from the past when trainers were often required to breed their own horses. Horse racing and breeding in America has really come a long way since it was first introduced to the public many, many years ago.

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