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 American Quarter Horse is an American breed of horse that excels at sprinting short distances. Its name came from its ability to outdistance other breeds of horses in races of a quarter mile or less; some individuals have been clocked at speeds up to 55 mph (88.5 km/h). The American Quarter Horse is the most popular breed in the United States today, and the American Quarter Horse Association is the largest breed registry in the world, with more than 4 million American Quarter Horses registered.
The American Quarter Horse is well known both as a race horse and for its performance in rodeos, horse shows and as a working ranch horse. The compact body of the American Quarter Horse is well-suited to the intricate and speedy maneuvers required in reining, cutting, working cow horse, barrel racing, calf roping, and other western riding events, especially those involving live cattle. The American Quarter Horse is also shown in English disciplines, driving, and many other equestrian activities.
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 race is known in the United States as "The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports" or "The Fastest Two Minutes in Sports" for its approximate duration, and is also called "The Run for the Roses" for the blanket of roses draped over the winner. It is the first leg of the United States Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing and is followed by the Preakness Stakes then the Belmont Stakes. The attendance at the Kentucky Derby ranks first in North America and usually surpasses the attendance of all other stakes races including the Preakness Stakes, Belmont Stakes and the Breeders' Cup.
Sunday Silence was bred by Oak Cliff Thoroughbreds, Ltd. He was passed in twice at the sales ring as a yearling, before he was finally sold in California for $50,000 as a two-year-old in training. Arthur B. Hancock III bought him as a "buy-back" (he had bred him), hoping to ship him to Kentucky. However, an accident kept Sunday Silence in California. Hall of Fame inducted trainer Charlie Whittingham bought a half share of the colt and then sold half of that to Dr. Ernest Gaillard. (Ownership designate: H-G-W Partners)