Horse racing has always been popular in the United Kingdom, no matter whether your preference is flat racing or jumps. The stories and heritage that comes with both makes it a sport that is unlike any other, with real connections made between man or woman and horse. Most people have even attended meetings whether is being a day at a hugely popular festival such as Cheltenham or Ascot or just a day or night at your local race track. It has a historic and storied history with the love of the sport being passed down from generation to generation. But here are 10 Interesting facts about Horse Racing that you may not have known.
Ten Facts about Horse Racing
- It is Britain’s second-favourite sport
Horse racing is so popular in the UK that it’s only surpassed by football in terms of spectatorship. That just shows the popularity of it, that it is able to compete with the highest grossing football league in the world.
With over six million attendees passing through the turnstiles at racecourses around the country every year, the sport’s popularity is widespread, bigger than cricket, rugby and tennis.
- It wasn’t invented here
Many believe horse racing was invented in the UK, however although the modern-day sport did originate in Britain, horses have been racing for as long as they have been domesticated. Nomadic tribesmen raced horses in Central Asia as far back as 4500 BC, while the first horseback tournaments on British soil took place around 200 AD.
- It contributes billions to the UK economy
The British horse racing industry is a world-leader, generating more than £3.7 billion for the country’s economy thanks in part to iconic events like The Randox Health Grand National and the Cheltenham Festival, which are watched by millions around the world, not even mentioning the hundreds of thousands of people that attend the festivals through the turnstiles on the day.
- Flat racing yields the biggest prizes
The average prize money in Flat racing is £17,744.28, compared to £11,072.49 in Jump racing. Some of the most prestigious races in the sport are on the Flat, including the Investec Derby at Epsom Downs and the QIPCO 1000 and 2000 Guineas Stakes at Newmarket.
- It is ‘The Sport of Kings’
King James I took such a deep interest in racing that in 1605, he was urged by parliament to refocus his attentions on running the country.
It was King James himself who established Newmarket as a royal place of luxury and began racing horses in the town, but it was his son Charles II who made Newmarket into what is now commonly known as the headquarters of British racing.
- Racing is better live than on TV
Despite its popularity, less than five per cent of UK races are televised on terrestrial television so the best way to get your thrill is by going to the racing, There are fixtures on most days of the year except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. With the most popular family days being on New year’s eve and New year’s day.
- Racing was once illegal
During the protectorate of Oliver Cromwell (1653-1658), the racing of horses was banned. The majority of horses were requisitioned by the state after the Civil War and the early proponents of British racehorse breeding were dealt a temporary blow.
- The animals are supreme athletes
While a human heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute at rest, Thoroughbred racehorses have resting heart rates of just 40 beats per minute.
- The original racehorses were bred for war
The three founding sires of Thoroughbred racing in the UK arrived in England in the 17th and 18th centuries, having been bred for war overseas.
Darley Arabian, the Byerley Turk and Godolphin Arabian were fast, powerful horses and they were bred with local mares to create the Thoroughbred lineage that continues to thrive today.
- The Jockeys
While many dream of a career in racing, only a few actually get the chance to ride for a living. In November 2017, there were nearly 450 professional jockeys in the UK and another 300 amateur riders.