Thoroughbred horse racing has a long and storied history. Horse racing dates back to 4500 B.C., when Central Asian nomadic tribesmen first raced their recently domesticated horses. Later on, horse racing became known as the sport of kings. Today, horse racing is both a popular spectator sport and one of the few forms of gambling that is legal in most of the world. Thoroughbred racing is the most popular form of horse racing.
Horse racing was popular among the ancient Greeks and in the Roman Empire. In the 12th century, Crusaders returned to England with fast Arab horses and began breeding them with English mares, producing horses with both speed and endurance. Noblemen placed bets on races between these horses.
Horse racing became a professional sport during Queen Anne’s reign, and racetracks opened all over England to support multiple races and wagers. Large cash prizes were given to winning horses, making horse racing a profitable endeavor.
Horse racing was introduced to America by British settlers who brought over their horses in the 17th century. The first American racetrack opened in New York. The Newmarket racetrack was named after a prominent racing location in England. The sport did not become popular nationally for another 200 years. In 1868 the American Stud Book was introduced. This became the official breeding registry for American Thoroughbreds.
In 1894 the American Jockey Club was formed to tamp down the corruption that had arisen within the sport. This club was patterned after the British Jockey Club and currently maintains the American Stud Book.
In the early 20th century, the tide turned against gambling of all forms, and bookmaking was outlawed in most states. Interest in horse racing plummeted until 1908, when the Kentucky Derby introduced parimutuel betting. This type of betting pools the bets placed and divides them among those whose horses place first, second, or third. Parimutuel betting became legal in a few states, making racing more popular once more.
Today, horse racing takes place in over half of U.S. states, and many races attract widespread interest. The Triple Crown races and the Breeder’s Cup are the most popular races in the United States today. With its rich history, fast-paced races, and emphasis on betting, American Thoroughbred racing remains a beloved sport.