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
The steeplechase is a form of horse racing that derives its name from early races in which orientation of the course was by reference to a churchsteeple, jumping fences and ditches and generally traversing the many intervening obstacles in the countryside. In the UK and Ireland the official term now used for the sport is National Hunt racing.
The steeplechase originated in Ireland in the 18th century as an analogue to cross-country thoroughbred horse races which went from church steeple to church steeple, hence "steeplechase". The first steeplechase is said to have been the result of a wager in 1752 between Cornelius O'Callaghan and Edmund Blake, racing four miles (6 km) cross-country from Buttevant Church to St. Leger Church in Doneraile, in Cork, Ireland.
The Flemington Racecourse site comprises 1.27 square kilometres of Crown land. The course was originally leased to the Victoria Turf Club in 1848, which merged with the Victoria Jockey Club in 1864 to form the Victoria Racing Club. The first Melbourne Cup was run in 1861. In 1871 the Victoria Racing Club Act was passed, giving the VRC legal control over Flemington Racecourse. The racecourse is shaped not unlike a pear, and boasts a six-furlong (1,200 m) straight known as 'the Straight Six.' The track has a circumference of 2,312 metres and a final straight of 450 metres for race distances over 1,200 metres.
The Grand National is a world famous National Hunthorse race which is held at Aintree in the United Kingdom. It is a handicapchase containing thirty fences which is run over a distance of 4 miles and 856 yards (7,242 m). It is presently scheduled to take place each year on a Saturday afternoon in early April. It is the most valuable National Hunt event in Great Britain, and in 2010 it offered a total prize fund of £925,000.
The race is run over two circuits of Aintree's National Course, which is triangular in shape and on which there are sixteen fences. All, except The Chair and the Water-Jump, are jumped twice. Some fences are notorious for their severity, particularly Becher's Brook and The Chair, although in recent years Aintree authorities have worked in conjunction with animal welfare organisations to minimise the danger of the jumps while still preserving them as formidable obstacles. The Grand National is the centrepiece of a three-day meeting, one of only four run at Aintree in the racing season.
She recorded a remarkable 13 wins from her 25 starts in Group One races (a winning strike-rate of 52%), while Makybe Diva, with whom she is often compared, won seven of her 14 (a winning strike-rate of 50%). Greg Childs, the jockey who rode Sunline in 33 of her races, said she "deserved to be bracketed with the Diva as the best racemares of the modern era. Maybe Diva was an outstanding stayer and Sunline was a champion middle distance horse."