racing is among the most widely attended U.S. spectator
sports. It is also a major professional sport in Canada,
Great Britain, Ireland, Western Europe, Australia, New
Zealand, South Africa, and South America. The most popular
form of the sport is the racing of mounted thoroughbred
horses over flat courses at distances from three-quarters
of a mile to two miles.
racing''s beginnings can be traced back to the 12th century,
when English knights returned home from the Crusades with
Arab horses. Over the next 400 years, breeding between
imported Arab stallions and English mares produced horses
that combined speed and endurance.
racing became a professional sport as early as 1702 to
1714. Racecourses sprang up all over England and offered
large purses to attract the best horses. The British settlers
brought horses and horse racing to America, with the first
American racetrack built in Long Island in 1665. The development
of organized racing did not arrive to America until after
the Civil War. In 1894, the American Jockey Club was formed
to govern the sport.
introduction of pari-mutuel betting for the Kentucky Derby signaled a renaissance for the sport after stumbling badly
in the early 1900s. At the end of World War I, prosperity
brought spectators flocking to racetracks. The sport prospered
until World War II, declined in popularity during the 1950s
and 1960s, enjoyed a resurgence in the 1970s and declined
in the late 1980s. It is currently enjoying another renaissance,
thanks to the popularity of horses like War Emblem, Funny
Cide, and the legendary Seabiscuit.
thoroughbred tracks exist in about half the states in the
United States. Public interest in the sport focuses primarily
on major thoroughbred races such as the Triple Crown (Kentucky
Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes) and the Breeders'' Cup.