The origin of the Sport of Kings goes back to ancient times with some of the earliest archaeological evidence of horse racing having been found in Kazakhstan, Central Asia and dating back to 4000 BCE.
Believed to have first been used as part of military training and competition between tribes, horse racing has been with us since shortly after we domesticated horses. Horse races have also been used for religious festivals and victory celebrations. Roman records show that their Spring carnival in Rome was closed with a horse race from the fifteenth century BCE onwards.
Recorded history of this great sport is another matter. One of the earliest records is in the Avesta, a Persian sacred text from 1500-1000 BCE. There are also Greek records from 700 BCE onwards of horse racing as part of the Olympic Games. The events in the Olympics included both mounted horse and chariot racing. These Olympic records show us that horse racing has been a popular entertainment since antiquity.
In medieval Europe it is known that horse races were also used to demonstrate horses’ speed to potential buyers.
1176 was a significant year for horse racing. It was in this year in Smithfield, in the City of London that what is believed to be the first recorded modern horse race in Europe took place.
The 12th century also marks the first recorded racing purse been offered. The £40 purse was the prize offered to the winner of a 3-mile mounted horse race.
The 17th century saw the inauguration of the King’s Plates races. These races are notable in that they are some of the first-know races to award prizes to the winners. The King’s Plate races also had the earliest recorded horse racing rules. The inauguration of this race and the formulation of horse race rules is attributed to Charles II who became known as the Father of the English turf.
On the continent, a wager between two noblemen in 1651 is the first recorded horse race held in France. Louis XVI developed French horse racing further during the 18th century by establishing a jockey club and rules for French racing.
In the new world, Col. Richard Nicolls, a British commander established horse racing on Long Island in 1664.
The 18th century onward has seen further growth and development in horse racing. From larger fields of competitors to more stringent rules, and the development of different race types.
The development of professional horse racing in the 19th century also saw the start of the first bookmakers.
Modern technology has significantly affected horse racing, as it has most of our society. Medical improvements and security have benefited, but perhaps the most notable revolution has been in online gambling. From poker to online pokies, to virtual sports, the internet has exploded with digital gambling options available in the comfort of your own home or while on the move. With the assistance of modern technology, horse racing fans can watch and bet in real time from anywhere.