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A Short History of Horse Racing

Horse racing is among the sports which have truly stood the test of time.




As a form of entertainment, horse racing has a long history. It originated in Ancient Rome and Greece, as well as in Egypt. At the time it was referred to as chariot racing, and was always a popular way to entertain people. Horse racing today was inspired by the chariot races of the past.

The Earliest Races

Horse racing dates back to at least the Greek Olympic Games that were held between 700 and 40 B.C. Olympic events included both typical horseback races and four-hitched chariots races. Based on their popularity at the Olympics, horse racing became a popular pastime in other parts of the world, including North Africa. It would eventually come to South Africa and inspire the Grand National, which remains a popular horse racing event even today.

But the Olympics weren’t the only place where horse racing had a home. It was also embraced by Charles II, who first introduced a series of races called The King’s Plate. It is believed that these races made history for being the first to give prizes as rewards for winning. On a related note, this was also the first horse race recorded that imposed rules on the participants.

During the 18th-century horse racing first took place in England. The first modern race was called The St. Leger, and was held in 1776. Subsequent horse races were held in both 1779 ad 1780.

Based on its popualrity in England, France took note of horse racing and brought it to the country. 1836 marked the formation of the Prix du Jockey Club. They followed this up in 1863 with the Grand Prix de Paris, with the Prix l’Arc de Triomphe, which was held in 1920.

As the sport continued to spread, the U.S. adopted it with the 1867 launch of the Belmont Stakes. They followed it up with the first Preakness Stakes, which were held in 1873. Two years later would mark the debut of the Kentucky Derby.

Betting On Horse Racing

With its popularity growing in France, spectators began betting on horse races. 1651 marked the country’s first race. It came about after a pair of noblemen placed a wager on it.

Louis XVI changed the face of the sport when he launched a jockey club and enacted rules to govern the races. Some of the earliest rules dictated that any horse participating in a race had to present a certificate stating the horse’s origin.

Today’s Horse Racing

As mentioned above, among the most popular horse races in South Africa is the Grand Heritage. Given its own official day, this race takes place in Vaal every year. In 2001 a sand track was opened in order to host these yearly races.


It’s safe to say that horse racing has come a long way since its inception. It is popular all over the world, particularly among those that enjoy betting on the outcomes of the races. This classic pastime continues to gain steam as it becomes one of the hottest betting options in the gambling industry.

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