The Compelling Origins of US Horse Racing

Horse racing origins date back to about 4500 BC among the Central Asian nomadic tribesmen. When the crusaders came back with them their white Arabian horses to Europe in the eleventh century, horse racing was an instant craze. Horse racing has flourished as the “sport of kings”. As one would expect different countries have developed their own horse racing traditions. Variations include anything from different track surfaces to particular breeds. British settlers brought horses (and horse racing) to America. Today it is a sport more american enjoys than you might think.

Horce Racing beginnings in US

The governor of New York, Richard Nicolls authorized the first legal horse racing track in Hempstead, Long Island. This was in the year 1665. The first purebred sire to reach the US was Bulle Rock, on his journey from England. He set his hoofs in Virginia in 1730. During the colonial era horse racing was the favorite pastime of the Southern elite. By the 1820s, track organizers in the US standardized the sport. Everything from weights, planned yearly schedules, arranged settlement of bets, and fixed rules of entry. Mostly only the wealthy could afford to own, maintain, and train thoroughbred racing horses. Most jockeys, in the South at least, were interestingly enough, African Americans.

“Rouse more interest than a presidential election”

As sports betting goes, nothing has ever reached the level of popularity like horse racing. In the 1830s horse racing was a US sensation. Englishman William Blane remarked in his journal that it roused more interest than a presidential election. By 1836 the sale of race horses amounted to more than $500,000 nationwide, and three years later there were 130 thoroughbred meetings in the country. Many of the races reflected the sectional issues of the day, pitting horses from the North against those from the South.

Horse racing is currently the second most attended sport in the US today

Man always likes a wager. Starting from simple wagers between horse owners, horse betting has now become a massive industry.

In the 50s horse racing was the #1 sport of the nation.

Whether or not the odds were fair, bettors knew the odds from the moment they placed their bet. This is still true. Steeplechase races, harness races, and endurance races continue to grow in popularity in both the US and Europe.

Betting at American tracks today is done using a pari-mutuel wagering system. The system was in fact developed by a Frenchman, Pierre Oller, in the late 19th century. With this system, a fixed percentage between 14%-25% of the total amount wagered is taken out to cover costs. The remaining sum is divided by the number of individual correct wagers to determine the payoff on each bet. Odds are continuously calculated and posted on the track toteboard during the open betting period of every race.

One of the most famous races in the US is of course the infamous Kentucky Derby. But other races such as Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on Long Island and Churchill Downs in Louisville also attract great crowds.