Horse racing is an equestrian performance sport involving two or more horses ridden by jockeys 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 in format and many countries have developed their own particular traditions around the sport. Variations include restricting races to particular breeds, running over obstacles, running over different distances, running on different track surfaces and running in different gaits. While horses are sometimes raced purely for sport, a major part of horse racing's interest and economic importance is in the gambling associated with it, an activity that in 2008 generated a worldwide market worth around US$115 billion. Horse racing has a long and distinguished history and has been practised in civilisations across the world since ancient times. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in Ancient Greece, Babylon and Egypt.
It plays an important part of myth and legend, such as the contest between the steeds of the god Odin and the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology. Chariot racing was one of the most popular ancient Greek and Byzantine sports. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by 648 BC and were important in the other Panhellenic Games, it continued although chariot racing was dangerous to both driver and horse, which suffered serious injury and death. In the Roman Empire and mounted horse racing were major industries. From the mid-fifteenth century until 1882, spring carnival in Rome closed with a horse race. Fifteen to 20 riderless horses imported from the Barbary Coast of North Africa, were set loose to run the length of the Via del Corso, a long, straight city street. In times, Thoroughbred racing became, remains, popular with aristocrats and royalty of British society, earning it the title "Sport of Kings". 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 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. There are many different types of horse racing, including: Flat racing, where horses gallop directly between two points around a straight or oval track. Jump racing, or Jumps racing known as Steeplechasing or, in the UK and Ireland, National Hunt racing, where horses race over obstacles. Harness racing, where horses trot or pace while pulling a driver in a sulky. Saddle Trotting, where horses must trot from a starting point to a finishing point under saddle Endurance racing, where horses travel across country over extreme distances ranging from 25 to 100 miles.
Different breeds of horses have developed. Breeds that are used for flat racing include the Thoroughbred, Quarter Horse, Arabian and Appaloosa. Jump racing breeds include the Thoroughbred and AQPS. In harness racing, Standardbreds are used in Australia, New Zealand and North America, when in Europe and French Trotter are used with Standardbred. Light cold blood horses, such as Finnhorses and Scandinavian coldblood trotter are used in harness racing within their respective geographical areas. There 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 oval in shape and are level, although in Great Britain and Ireland there is much greater variation, including figure of eight tracks like Windsor and tracks with severe gradients and changes of camber, such as Epsom Racecourse. Track surfaces vary, with turf most common in Europe, dirt more common in North America and Asia, newly designed synthetic surfaces, such as Polytrack or Tapeta, seen at some tracks.
Individual flat races are run over distances ranging from 440 yards up to two and a half miles, with distances between five and twelve furlongs being most common. Short races are referred to as "sprints", while longer races are known as "routes" in the United States or "staying races" in Europe. Although fast acceleration is 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 allocated the same weight to carry for fairness, with allowances given to younger horses and female horses running against males; these races 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.
Beside the weight they carry, horses' performance can be influenced by position relative to the inside barrier, gender and training. Jump racing in Gr
The Grand National is a National Hunt horse race held annually at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England. First run in 1839, it is a handicap steeplechase over an official distance of about 4 miles and 2½ furlongs, with horses jumping 30 fences over two laps, it is the most valuable jump race in Europe, with a prize fund of £1 million in 2017. An event, prominent in British culture, the race is popular amongst many people who do not watch or bet on horse racing at other times of the year; the course over which the race is run features much larger fences than those found on conventional National Hunt tracks. Many of these Becher's Brook, The Chair and the Canal Turn, have become famous in their own right and, combined with the distance of the event, create what has been called "the ultimate test of horse and rider"; the Grand National has been broadcast live on free-to-air terrestrial television in the United Kingdom since 1960. From until 2012 it was broadcast by the BBC. Between 2013 and 2016 it was shown by Channel 4.
An estimated 500 to 600 million people watch the Grand National in over 140 countries. It has been broadcast on radio since 1927; the most recent running of the race, in 2019, was won by Tiger Roll ridden by jockey Davy Russell for trainer Gordon Elliott. The next Grand National meeting will start on 2 April and will finish on 4 April 2020. Since 2018, the race and accompanying festival are sponsored by Randox Health; the Grand National was founded by William Lynn, a syndicate head and proprietor of the Waterloo Hotel, on land he leased in Aintree from William Molyneux, 2nd Earl of Sefton. Lynn set out a course, built a grandstand, Lord Sefton laid the foundation stone on 7 February 1829. There is much debate regarding the first official Grand National; this same horse won again in 1837, while Sir William was the winner in 1838. These races have long been disregarded because of the belief that they took place at Maghull and not Aintree. However, some historians have unearthed evidence in recent years that suggest those three races were run over the same course at Aintree and were regarded as having been Grand Nationals up until the mid-1860s.
Contemporary newspaper reports place all the 1836-38 races at Aintree although the 1839 race is the first described as "national". To date, calls for the Nationals of 1836–1838 to be restored to the record books have been unsuccessful; the Duke was ridden by Martin Becher. The fence Becher's Brook is where he fell in the next year's race. In 1838 and 1839 three significant events occurred to transform the Liverpool race from a small local affair to a national event. Firstly, the Great St. Albans Chase, which had clashed with the steeplechase at Aintree, was not renewed after 1838, leaving a major hole in the chasing calendar. Secondly, the railway arrived in Liverpool, enabling transport to the course by rail for the first time. A committee was formed to better organise the event; these factors led to a more publicised race in 1839 which attracted a larger field of top quality horses and riders, greater press coverage and an increased attendance on race day. Over time the first three runnings of the event were forgotten to secure the 1839 race its place in history as the first official Grand National.
It was won by rider Jem Mason on the aptly named, Lottery. By the 1840s, Lynn's ill-health blunted his enthusiasm for Aintree. Edward Topham, a respected handicapper and prominent member of Lynn's syndicate, began to exert greater influence over the National, he turned the chase into a handicap in 1843 after it had been a weight-for-age race for the first four years, took over the land lease in 1848. One century the Topham family bought the course outright. In the century the race was the setting of a thriller by the popular novelist Henry Hawley Smart. For three years during the First World War, while Aintree Racecourse was taken over by the War Office, an alternative race was run at Gatwick Racecourse, a now disused course on land now occupied by Gatwick Airport; the first of these races, in 1916, was called the Racecourse Association Steeplechase, in 1917 and 1918 the race was called the War National Steeplechase. The races at Gatwick are not always recognised as "Grand Nationals" and their results are omitted from winners' lists.
On the day of the 1928 Grand National, before the race had begun, Tipperary Tim's jockey William Dutton heard a friend call out to him: "Billy boy, you'll only win if all the others fall down!" These words turned out to be true. That year's National was run during misty weather conditions with the going heavy; as the field approached the Canal Turn on the first circuit, Easter Hero fell, causing a pile-up from which only seven horses emerged with seated jockeys. By the penultimate fence this number had reduced to three, with Great Span looking most to win ahead of Billy Barton and Tipperary Tim. Great Span's saddle slipped, leaving Billy Barton in the lead until he too fell. Although Billy Barton's jockey Tommy Cullinan managed to remount and complete the race, it was Tipperary Tim who came in first at outside odds of 100/1. With only two riders completing the course, this remains a record for the lowest number of finishers. Although the Grand National was run as normal in 1940 and most other major hors