Horse racing is one of a few sports that can trace its roots back to ancient antiquity. This equestrian sport has marvelled millions of spectators across the world throughout history. It is a sport many people associate with elegance and luxury and a certain bit of mystery. Since it is such an old sport, different countries and cultures adopted their own rules and competitions. As a result, today there are a wide variety of types for one to enjoy.
This competition is sometimes also known as Harness Racing or Trotting. A two-wheeled cart, known as a sulky, is attached by way of a harness, to the horse. A jockey sits on the sulky and directs the horse during the race. In some European countries, the jockey is made to sit directly on the trotter.
As with other horse racing competitions, some countries set restrictions on the breeds of horses that can compete in Trot Racing. Standardbred horses are the only ones allowed to compete in the United States. European races, on the other hand, are more open to varied breeds like French or Russian Trotters. Meanwhile in Scandinavian countries Finnhorses and Coldblood Trotters race separately.
Even the type of race varies depending on the country. European races feature only trotting, but in other countries horses can also pace. The difference between the two styles is in the movement of the horses’ legs. Pacing horses are known to be faster and are more reliable since they are less likely to break stride.
There are many competitions around the globe, but the most famous is the Prix d’Amérique, which is held annually in France. With a prize running of €1 million, it welcomes some of the best trotting horses in the world. In the United States, meanwhile, major competitions include the Hambletonian which is open to 3-year-old trotters and Little Brown Jug which is open to 3-year-old pacers.
Flat Racing is another very popular horse racing competition. It consists of the jockeys riding their horses on a level course which is specially made for this type of racing. The track is usually made up of pressed dirt, however, turf surfaces have become increasingly popular. The distance and aim of the race vary considerably across the world. The longest tracks can go on for up to 3 miles.
The goal of the race might be a test of speed on the horse, but it might also be a test of stamina. Similarly, the jockey is tested in his ability to keep the horse under control whilst pushing it to its limit. Flat Racing competitions employ a looser breed restriction than Trot Racing. However, over time experts in the field realised that Thoroughbreds make the best contestants.
The Royal Ascot is one of the most popular events hosting Flat Racing. Frequent important spectators include members of the royal family, including the Queen herself. The Derby Stakes, held in Surrey, is another competition with a long history. It is 1 of the 5 Classic British Races.
Between May and September, Scandinavian countries open their doors to Flat Racing events. The Scandinavian Open Championship, held in August, is one of the biggest events. The course is one of the longest, at over 2km. The season comes to a close with the Stockholm Cup International, held in September.
Jump Racing & Steeplechases
Jump Racing is also known as Hurdling and, in the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is referred to as a National Hunt. As the name suggests, this race requires a constant jump on the part of the horse and puts added stress on the jockey who rides on top. Each hurdle is over 1 metre in height and made of brush and panels in order to be flexible. As a minimum, Jump Races need to have at least 8 hurdles and be at least 3km long.
Horses which do very well in Jump Racing usually move on to Steeplechases. This race is also known as the a National Hunt. In these races, hurdles are replaced by fences and other obstacles, such as water pools, are added to the track. This makes the competition much more exciting for the spectators and much more challenging for the horse and jockey.
The Grand National event held at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool is generally accepted to be the most famous in the world. The winner walks off with a prize sum of over €1 million, together with the prestige and reputation that comes with the event. In Paris, the Grand Steeplechase held at the Auteuil Hippodrome is one of the oldest competitions still held today. The first event took place in 1874.
The Czech Republic has its own world-renowned Steeplechase. The Velká Pardubická is organised annually in Pardubige. Since it is organised in the middle of October it gets a lot of publicity as many other events would have already finished by then.