The equestrian sport of horse racing was born from unplanned competitions many centuries ago and by 4500 BC, the sport was highly popular among Aristocrats, wealthy Asians and parts of Europe that it became known as the ‘Sport of Kings’.
The first notable recognition of horse racing as a competitive sport was in 648 BC during the annual Greek Olympics. It proved to be a highly entertaining sport and its popularity soon spread to other empires and states including that of the Romans. A few years after horse racing made its debut at the Greek Olympics, the sport was formatted into forming different types including mounted racing and chariot racing.
Modern horse racing as we know it today emerged during the reign of Queen Anne in England between 1702 and 1714. It is during this period that the sport became ‘professional’ as a team sport with a clear differentiation of roles between the jockey and the trainer. It is also during this time that the first horse racing wagers were placed by ‘male’ aristocrats only.In 1750, the Jockey Club was established. Its 3 core primary duties were to formulate the guiding rules and regulations, regulate horserace breeding and sanction racecourses. The Jockey Club is still present today and it is still guided by its founding principles.
Different Forms of Horse Racing
Ever since the first recorded races, horse racing continued to evolve. The following are the major changes in the forms of horse racing.
Flat racing - this is the classic form of horse racing, run on a level racecourse. Flat racing covers both short races commonly known as ‘sprints’ and long races commonly referred to as ‘staying races or routes’. Short distances in flat racing on average are 402m or 2 furlongs, while the long distances on average measure 4,828m or 24 furlongs.
Steeplechase - this form of horse racing was developed soon after flat racing. In order to finish, the racehorses have to jump over certain obstacles in front of them. The obstacles in a steeplechase vary according to the region, such as in Ireland for instance. Here they prefer smaller hurdles mostly made of temporarily erected heights while in other regions like in England, Australia and most parts of the US, the obstacles are generally permanently fixed fences and ditches. Steeplechase races, on average, have a distance of 1600m and is considered the most lucrative horse race, which is easily shown by the value of the Grand National Run in England with prize money of £1,000,000 to date.
Harness - this type of horse racing adopted its style from the traditional chariot racing and involves a horse pulling a wheeled cart, which is commonly referred to as a sulky. Harness racing can be conducted in 2 different gaits i.e. pacing and trotting. Pacing is when the sulky moves its legs laterally. Pacing is mostly used in the US, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Trotting, on the other hand, is when the sulky moves diagonally and is most common in continental Europe. Unlike in other forms of race horsing, there is no jockey in Harness racing, but rather a driver.
Endurance - this is the most recent form of horse racing. It originated during the First World War and the aim is to test the endurance of the horse. This race covers a large distance and often it is run in extreme conditions. The average distance run in an endurance race is 160km. Endurance racing is divided into different sections (loops/phases/legs) and after each section, the horses pass through a veterinary check to assess if it’s still fit to continue racing.
Gambling in horse racing in modern-day land-based establishments started in 1961. Gambling mogul George Alfred James established the first land-based establishment allowing horse racing betting in Wales which was named the Port Talbot Casino Club. From that time, betting on horse racing gradually began to gather momentum and it soon became the most popular type of sports betting on a global scale by the start of the 1980s.
Betting on horse racing, however, took a sharp turn for the better after the emergence of mobile technology in particular around 2006. As mobile technology infiltrated to all the corners of the world, so too did new online bookies. Online sportsbooks such as Betway, facilitated by easy-to-use mobile operating systems such as Android made it easier for punters to bet on the move. This revolution on mobile betting soon dominated the gambling circles led the gambling industry to increase its revenue figures exponentially. As early as 2008, after the emergence of mobile technology, global revenue generated from betting on horse racing was a staggering US$115 billion.
How to bet on horse racing
There are generally two forms which guide betting on horse racing, one is popular in the US and the other in all other continents.
The Pari-mutuel is a form of horse racing bets used in the US, whereby all bets of a particular type are pooled together and the payout odds are calculated proportionally, sharing the pool among all the winning bets. Pari-mutuel is also known as mutual betting or tote betting in other parts of the world.
In Europe and most other continents, betting in horse racing is mostly done under betting markets. The odds are all pre-calculated by bookmakers and all punters have to do is choose their market of choice and place their bets. There is a variety of horse racing betting markets terms used online and at land-based establishments. The 3 common types are the ‘Win or Straight’, ‘Place’ and ‘Show’ markets. Under the ‘Win’ market, punters have to predict the horse that will finish in the first position. In the ‘Place’ market, punters have to select a horse that will finish either in the 1st or 2nd position, while the ‘Show’ market, punters have to select the horse that will finish in position 1, 2 or 3.