Horse racing is an equestrian sport that has been practiced over the centuries; the chariot races of Roman times are an early example, as is the contest of the steeds of the god Odin and the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology. Chariot racing was one of the most popular ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine sports. Chariot racing was often dangerous to both driver and horse as they frequently suffered serious injury and even death, but generated strong spectator enthusiasm. In the ancient Olympic Games, as well as the other Panhellenic Games, the sport was one of the most important equestrian events.
Historically, equestrians honed their skills through games and races. Equestrian sports provided entertainment for crowds and honed the excellent horsemanship that was needed in battle. Many sports, such as dressage, eventing and show jumping, have origins in military training, which were focused on control and balance of both horse and rider. Other sports, such as rodeo, developed from practical skills such as those needed on working ranches and stations. Sport hunting from horseback evolved from earlier practical hunting techniques. Horse racing of all types evolved from impromptu competitions between riders or drivers. All 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.
Horse racing is an equestrian sport and major international industry, watched in almost every nation of the world. There are three types: "flat" racing; steeplechasing, i.e. racing over jumps; and harness racing, where horses trot or pace while pulling a driver in a small, light cart known as a sulky. A major part of horse racing's economic importance lies in the gambling associated with it, an activity that in 2008 generated a world-wide market worth around US$115 billion
Selected race track
Pimlico Race Course is a horse racetrack in Baltimore, Maryland, most famous for hosting the Preakness Stakes. Its name is derived from the 1660s when English settlers called the area where the facility currently stands in honor of Olde Ben Pimlico's Tavern in London. The racetrack is nicknamed "Old Hilltop" after a small rise in the infield that became a favorite gathering place for thoroughbred trainers and race enthusiasts. Pimlico officially opened in the fall of 1870, with the colt Preakness winning the first running of the Dinner Party Stakes. Three years later the horse would have the 1873 Preakness Stakes named in his honor. The track is also noted as the home for the match race in which Seabiscuit beat War Admiral in the second Pimlico Special, on November 1, 1938, before a crowd of 43,000.
The track has a one-mile dirt oval and a seven furlong turf oval. There is stabling for about 1,000 horses, and the attendance capacity, including the infield, is over 120,000. The Preakness Stakes and the Pimlico Special are run at a distance of 1 3/16 miles. The Pimlico track record for that distance is held by Farma Way, who set it while winning the Pimlico Special in 1991.
The Belmont Stakes is an American Grade I stakes Thoroughbred horse race held every June at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York. The race is the third and final leg of the Triple Crown, following five weeks after the Kentucky Derby, and three weeks after the Preakness Stakes. The Belmont Stakes is a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) horse race, open to three year Thoroughbreds. Colts and geldings carry a weight of 126 pounds (57 kg); fillies carry 121 pounds (55 kg). The attendance at the Belmont Stakes ranks fourth in North America and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races, including the Breeders' Cup.
The first Belmont Stakes was held at Jerome Park Racetrack in The Bronx, built in 1866 by stock market speculator Leonard Jerome (1817–1891) and financed by August Belmont, Sr. (1816–1890), for whom the race was named. The race continued to be held at Jerome Park until 1890, when it was moved to the nearby facility, Morris Park Racecourse. The race remained there until the May 1905 opening of the new Belmont Park, 430-acre (1.7 km²) racetrack in Elmont, New York in the borough of Queens.
Easy Jet (1967–1992) was an American Quarter Horse foaled in 1967, and was one of only two horses to have been a member of the American Quarter Horse Association (or AQHA) Hall of Fame as well as being an offspring of members. Easy Jet won the 1969 All American Futurity, the highest race for Quarter Horse racehorses, and was named World Champion Quarter Race Horse in the same year. He earned the highest speed rating awarded at the time—AAAT. After winning 27 of his 38 races in two years of racing, he retired from the race track and became a breeding stallion.
As a sire he was the first All American Futurity winner to sire an All American Futurity winner, and went on to sire three winners of that race, and nine Champion Quarter Running Horses. Ultimately, his ownership and breeding rights were split into 60 shares worth $500,000 each—a total of $30 million. By 1993, the year after his death, his foals had earned more than $25 million on the racetrack.