What is the History of entering a horse into a horse race?

September 9th, 2021

We don’t know exactly when and where the history of entering a horse into a race begins, but some of the first records of the sport come from the Greek Olympic Games in 700 to 40 B.C. From there, equine contests grew to China, Persia, Arabia, the Middle East, and North Africa.

The roots of racing in medieval England were planted when horses for sale were ridden in competition to demonstrate their speed to potential buyers. During the reign of Richard the Lionheart (1189-99), the first known purse was offered for a three-mile race, and knights were the riders.

Some of the first formal meetings that took entries for horse racing were held in the 1510s, while Henry VIII was on the throne.

Newmarket (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

Charles II became known as “the father of the English turf.” He reigned from 1660-85, started the King’s Plates races, and helped establish Newmarket as a headquarters of racing. Epsom races were an annual occurrence by 1730. 

The first documented horse race in France, a wager between two noblemen, was held in 1651. Louis XVI, who reigned from 1774-93, organized a jockey club.

In North American, organized racing started when the British came to the area now known as New York City in 1664. Col. Richard Nicolls organized a race in Long Island and offered a silver cup to the best horses in the spring and fall seasons.

The modern era of racing started in the late 1700s with the inception of three English classic races for three-year-olds: the St. Leger in 1776, the Oaks in 1779, and the Derby in 1780. The classics were completed with the 2,000 Guineas in 1809 and the 1,000 Guineas in 1814. France and America duplicated this pattern and established their own classics. Since then, many other countries have established their own Triple Crowns

The publication of the American Stud Book in 1868 prompted the beginning of organized horse racing in the United States, and by 1890, 314 tracks operated in the country. The American Jockey Club was formed in 1894 to establish order in racing and it maintains the American Stud Book to ensure the integrity of the breed of horses entered into races.