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Horse racing is an equestrian performance sport, typically involving two or more horses ridden by jockeys or sometimes driven without riders over a set distance, for competition.
It is one of the most ancient of all sports, as its basic premise — to identify which of two or more horses is the fastest over a set course or distance — has been unchanged since at least classical antiquity.
Horse races vary widely in format and many countries have developed their own particular traditions around the sport. Variations include restricting races to particular breeds , running over obstacles cross-country , running over different distances typically a mile, mile and a quarter, mile and an 8th, mile and a 16th , running on different track surfaces and running in different gaits.
Horse racing has a long and distinguished history and has been practised in civilisations across the world since ancient times.
Chariot racing was one of the most popular ancient Greek , Roman and Byzantine sports. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by BC  and were important in the other Panhellenic Games.
It continued although chariot racing was often dangerous to both driver and horse, which frequently suffered serious injury and even death. In the Roman Empire , chariot and mounted horse racing were major industries.
In later times, Thoroughbred racing became, and remains, popular with aristocrats and royalty of British society, earning it the title "Sport of Kings".
Historically, equestrians honed their skills through games and races. Equestrian sports provided entertainment for crowds and displayed the excellent horsemanship needed in battle.
Horse racing of all types evolved from impromptu competitions between riders or drivers. The various forms of competition, requiring demanding and specialized skills from both horse and rider, resulted in the systematic development of specialized breeds and equipment for each sport.
The popularity of equestrian sports through the centuries has resulted in the preservation of skills that would otherwise have disappeared after horses stopped being used in combat.
In Britain, horse racing became well-established in the 18th century. It continued to grow in popularity throughout the e18th and beyond.
King Charles II reigned to was an avid sportsman who gave Newmarket its prominence. By the Jockey Club was formed to control the Newmarket races, set the rules of the game, prevent dishonesty, and making for a level field.
The five classic races began with the St Leger Stakes in The system was complete in with five annual races. The system of wagering was essential to the funding and the growth of the industry, and all classes participated from the poor to royalty.
High society was in control, and they made a special effort to keep the riff-raff out and the criminal element away from the wagering. With real money at stake, the system needed skilled jockeys, trainers, grooms, and experts at breeding, thereby opening new prestigious careers for working-class rural men.
Every young ambitious stable boy could dream of making it big. Horse racing is one of the few sports that has continued during the COVID crisis,  with Australian and Hong Kong the two main racing jurisdictions to carry on, albeit with no crowds.
Different breeds of horses have developed that excel in each of the specific disciplines. Light cold blood horses, such as Finnhorses and Scandinavian coldblood trotter are also used in harness racing within their respective geographical areas.
There also are races for ponies: both flat and jump  and harness racing. Flat racing is the most common form of racing seen worldwide.
Flat racing tracks are typically oval in shape and are generally level, although in Great Britain and Ireland there is much greater variation, including a figure of eight tracks like Windsor and tracks with often severe gradients and changes of camber, such as Epsom Racecourse.
Track surfaces vary, with turf most common in Europe and dirt more common in North America and Asia. Newly designed synthetic surfaces, such as Polytrack or Tapeta , are seen at some tracks.
Short races are generally referred to as "sprints", while longer races are known as "routes" in the United States or "staying races" in Europe.
Although fast acceleration "a turn of foot" is usually required to win either type of race, in general sprints are seen as a test of speed, while long-distance races are seen as a test of stamina.
The most prestigious flat races in the world, such as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe , Melbourne Cup , Japan Cup , Epsom Derby , Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup , are run over distances in the middle of this range and are seen as tests of both speed and stamina to some extent.
In the most prestigious races, horses are generally allocated the same weight to carry for fairness, with allowances given to younger horses and female horses running against males.
These races are called conditions races and offer the biggest purses. There is another category of races called handicap races where each horse is assigned a different weight to carry based on its ability.
Jump or jumps racing in Great Britain and Ireland is known as National Hunt racing although, confusingly, National Hunt racing also includes flat races taking place at jumps meetings; these are known as National Hunt flat races.
Jump racing can be subdivided into steeplechasing and hurdling , according to the type and size of obstacles being jumped.
The word "steeplechasing" can also refer collectively to any type of jump race in certain racing jurisdictions, particularly in the United States.
Typically, horses progress to bigger obstacles and longer distances as they get older, so that a European jumps horse will tend to start in National Hunt flat races as a juvenile, move on to hurdling after a year or so, and then, if thought capable, move on to steeplechasing.
A type of racing where horses go around a track while pulling a sulky and a driver behind them. In this sport, Standardbreds are used.
These horses are separated into two categories, trotters and pacers. Pacers move the legs on each side of their body in tandem, while trotters move their diagonal legs together.
The latter are typically faster than the former due to the gaits used. This could cause the loss of a race or even a disqualification.
Ridden trot races are more common in places such as Europe and New Zealand. These horses are trotters who race on the flat under saddle with a jockey on their backs.
The length of an endurance race varies greatly. Some are very short, only ten miles, while others can be up to one hundred miles.
There are a few races that are even longer than one hundred miles and last multiple days. Contemporary organized endurance racing began in California around , and the first race marked the beginning of the Tevis Cup  This race was a one-hundred-mile, one-day-long ride starting in Squaw Valley , Placer County , and ending in Auburn.
Founded in , the American Endurance Ride Conference was the United States' first national endurance riding association.
In most horse races, entry is restricted to certain breeds; that is, the horse must have a sire father and a dam mother who are studbook-approved individuals of whatever breed is racing.
The exception to this is in Quarter Horse racing, where an Appendix Quarter Horse may be considered eligible to race against standard Quarter Horses.
The designation of "Appendix" refers to the addendum section, or Appendix, of the Official Quarter Horse registry.
An Appendix Quarter Horse is a horse that has either one Quarter Horse parent and one parent of any other eligible breed such as Thoroughbred, the most common Appendix cross , two parents that are registered Appendix Quarter Horses, or one parent that is a Quarter Horse and one parent that is an Appendix Quarter Horse.
AQHA also issues a "Racing Register of Merit", which allows a horse to race on Quarter Horse tracks, but not be considered a Quarter Horse for breeding purposes unless other requirements are met.
A stallion who has won many races may be put up to stud when he is retired. Artificial insemination and embryo transfer technology allowed only in some breeds has brought changes to the traditions and ease of breeding.
Pedigrees of stallions are recorded in various books and websites, such as Weatherbys Stallion Book , the Australian Stud Book and Thoroughbred Heritage.
There are three founding sires that all Thoroughbreds can trace back to in the male line: the Darley Arabian , the Godolphin Arabian , and the Byerley Turk , named after their respective owners Thomas Darley , Lord Godolphin, and Captain Robert Byerly.
They were taken to England, where they were mated with mares from English and imported bloodlines. Thoroughbreds range in height, which is measured in hands a hand being four inches.
Some are as small as 15 hands while others are over Thoroughbreds can travel medium distances at fast paces, requiring a balance between speed and endurance.
Artificial insemination, cloning and embryo transfer are not allowed in the Thoroughbred breed. The standardbred is a breed of horse used for a variety of purposes, but they are largely bred for harness racing.
They are descended from thoroughbreds, morgans, and extinct breeds. Standardbreds are typically docile and easy to handle. They do not spook easily and are quite versatile in what they can do.
They can be jumpers, dressage, and pleasure riding horses. The Arabian horse was developed by the Bedouin people of the Middle East specifically for stamina over long distances, so they could outrun their enemies.
It was not until that the Arabian was introduced into the United States. Until the formation of the Arabian Horse Registry of America in , Arabians were recorded with the Jockey Club in a separate subsection from Thoroughbreds.
Arabians must be able to withstand traveling long distances at a moderate pace. They have an abundance of type I muscle fibers , enabling their muscles to work for extended periods of time.
Also, the muscles of the Arabian are not nearly as massive as those of the Quarter Horse, which allow it to travel longer distances at quicker speeds.
The Arabian is primarily used today in endurance racing but is also raced over traditional race tracks in many countries.
The ancestors of the Quarter Horse were prevalent in America in the early 17th century. These horses were a blend of Colonial Spanish horses crossed with English horses that were brought over in the s.
The native horse and the English horse were bred together, resulting in a compact, muscular horse. At this time, they were mainly used for chores such as plowing and cattle work.
The American Quarter Horse was not recognized as an official breed until the formation of the American Quarter Horse Association in In order to be successful in racing, Quarter Horses need to be able to propel themselves forward at extremely fast sprinter speed.
The Quarter Horse has much larger hind limb muscles than the Arabian, which make it less suitable for endurance racing. When Quarter Horse racing began, it was very expensive to lay a full mile of track so it was agreed that a straight track of four hundred meters, or one-quarter of a mile, would be laid instead.
There is less jockeying for position, as turns are rare, and many races end with several contestants grouped together at the wire.
The track surface is similar to that of Thoroughbred racing and usually consists of dirt. Muscles are bundles of contractile fibers that are attached to bones by tendons.
These bundles have different types of fibers within them, and horses have adapted over the years to produce different amounts of these fibers.
Type I muscle fibers are adapted for aerobic exercise and rely on the presence of oxygen. They are slow-twitch fibers. They allow muscles to work for longer periods of time resulting in greater endurance.
Type II muscles are adapted for anaerobic exercise because they can function in the absence of oxygen. Type II-a fibers are intermediate, representing a balance between the fast-twitch fibers and the slow-twitch fibers.
They allow the muscles to generate both speed and endurance. This type of fiber allows them to propel themselves forward at great speeds and maintain it for an extended distance.
Type II-b fibers are fast-twitch fibers. These fibers allow muscles to contract quickly, resulting in a great deal of power and speed. The conditioning program for the horses varies depending on the race length.
Genetics, training, age, and skeletal soundness are all factors that contribute to a horse's performance. A horse's fitness plan must be coordinated properly in order to prevent injury or lameness.
If these are to occur, they may negatively affect a horse's willingness to learn. Because the skeletal system does not reach full maturity until the horse is at least four years of age, young racehorses often suffer injuries.
In the United States, Thoroughbred flat races are run on surfaces of either dirt, synthetic or turf.
Other tracks offer Quarter Horse racing and Standardbred racing, on combinations of these three types of racing surfaces. Racing of other breeds, such as Arabian horse racing, is found on a limited basis.
American Thoroughbred races are run at a wide variety of distances, most commonly from 5 to 12 furlongs 0.
The South Westbury section is still known as Salisbury. The first record of quarter-mile length races dated back to in Henrico County , Virginia. Each race consisted of only two horses, and they raced down the village streets and lanes.
The Quarter Horse received its name from the length of the race. The American Stud Book was started in , prompting the beginning of organized horse racing in the United States.
There were tracks operating in the United States by ; and in , the American Jockey Club was formed. Belmont Park is located at the western edge of the Hempstead Plains.
Its mile-and-a-half main track is the largest dirt Thoroughbred racecourse in the world, and it has the sport's largest grandstand.
One of the latest major horse track opened in the United States was the Meadowlands Racetrack , opened in for Thoroughbred racing.
It is the home of the Meadowlands Cup. Other more recently opened tracks include Remington Park , Oklahoma City , opened in , and Lone Star Park in the Dallas—Fort Worth Metroplex , opened in ; the latter track hosted the prestigious Breeders' Cup series of races in Latest News.
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