Horse racing is known to be one of the oldest forms of sport – with people racing on the backs of horses or in a chariot going back as far as 700 BCE.
But modern horse racing as we know of it today – at least in the UK and Ireland – has its roots in the 17th century with King James I who made it the “Sport of Kings” and raised its status in the eyes of English aristocracy.
A majority of the big races we know of today originated in the 1700s, a period when horse breeding and the sport itself became more efficiently structured.
Types of horse races
In the UK, horse racing is of two types – flat racing and National Hunt racing. Flat racing is very basic – with the horses running in a straight line or along a track. When they finish, the first to get past the post is declared the winner.
In National Hunt racing, the horses and their jockeys must race their way through a series of obstacles placed around the track. This type of racing is divided into two main kinds: hurdles and steeplechases. The primary difference being that the steeplechases are fences which are more solid and higher than those in the hurdles races. Steeplechases could also have horses jumping over open ditches and doing water jumps to add an element of thrill to the race. Another less common type of National Hunt races is called “bumper”.
Classification of races
Horse racing, be it flat or National Hunt racing, are classified in a certain way in order of prestige. This prestige is most likely linked to the amount of its prize money and the breed of horses participating. The highest rung in classification is Group 1 which has the best horses and offers the most money, followed by Group 2, Group 3, listed races and finally handicap races which follow a descending order of prestige.
Races are also classified from 1-7, but usually all graded and listed races are Class 1. The Jockey Club dictates the weight to be carried by each horse in handicap races to provide a decent display compared with the other exciting races.