Great Britain’s Horse Racing Scene
Great Britain’s second largest spectator sport is horse racing. The country’s horse racing events have a centuries old history. Over £3.7 billion is generated from horse racing in Great Britain. International sporting and society calendars in Great Britain always consider the Cheltenham Festival and the Grand National to be significant dates.
Beginning in Roman times, Great Britain has been the site of many horse races. Many horse racing rules and traditions were begun in Great Britain. After the establishment of the Jockey Club in 1750 the Rules of Racing were codified. It was then that the foundation for horse racing handicap systems was laid by Admiral Rous, a Jockey Club member. One of the handicap systems he laid the groundwork for was the scale of weight-for-age.
Iconic racecourses such as Newmarket, Cheltenham and Ascot are located in Great Britain. Great jockeys such as Lester Piggot, Fred Archer and Sir Gordan Richards all hail from the U.K. Thoroughbred racehorse breeding has been of great historical importance to Britain; so much so that every racehorse is referred to as an English Thoroughbred since the breed was originally created in the country. Each of today’s modern thoroughbred horse races trace back to one of three imported foundation sires.
Among the British betting industry’s cornerstones is horse race gambling. Historically, horse race gambling and the British betting industry have mutually depended on each other. Great Britain’s horse racing scene is largely funded by those who gamble on it. Many betting shops and racecourses throughout the country negotiated for media rights to cover horse racing events.
Great Britain’s two main forms of horse racing are:
Flats Races – this is a type of race that contains no obstacles and spans 5 furlongs/2 miles by 159 yard courses.
National Hunt (Jump) Races – this is a type of race that spans two to 4.5 miles. In most cases horses must jump over fences or hurdles. Within this type of race is a National Hunt flat race that involves no obstacles and is dictated by the rules of the National Hunt.