Horse racing is an equestrian performance sport, typically involving two or more horses ridden by jockeys (or sometimes driven without riders) over a set distance for competition. It is one of the most ancient of all sports, as its basic premise – to identify which of two or more horses is the fastest over a set course or distance – has been unchanged since at least classical antiquity.
Horse races vary widely in format and many countries have developed their own particular traditions around the sport. Variations include restricting races to particular breeds, running over obstacles, running over different distances, running on different track surfaces and running in different gaits.
In the Roman form of chariot racing, teams represented different groups of financial backers and sometimes competed for the services of particularly skilled drivers. These teams became the focus of intense support among spectators, and occasional disturbances broke out between followers of different factions. The conflicts sometimes became politicized, as the sport began to transcend the races themselves and started to affect society overall. This helps explain why Roman and later Byzantine emperors took control of the teams and appointed many officials to oversee them.
The Circus Maximus is an ancient Roman chariot racing stadium and mass entertainment venue located in Rome. Situated in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, it was the first and largest Chariot Racing Stadium in ancient Rome. The site is now a public park and retains little evidence of its former use. The Circus could hold over 1/4 of the city's population, over 250,000 people, allowing for this Circus to be a popular viewing place by the Romans. The Circus measured "621 m (2,037 ft) in length and 118 m (387 ft) in width.
Chariot racing was an extremely dangerous sport, frequently resulting in spectacular crashes and the death of one or more of the contestants. One end of the track extended further back than the other, to allow the chariots to line up to begin the race. Here there were starting gates, or "carceres", which staggered the chariots so that each traveled the same distance to the first turn. During these chariot races, bribery of the judge in order to fix the start of the race was very common. The race went for a total distance of about 6.5 km (4 miles).
Two years before the Kentucky Derby was run for the first time, Pimlico introduced its new stakes race for three-year-olds, the Preakness, during its first-ever spring race meet in 1873. Former Maryland GovernorOden Bowie named the then mile and one-half (2.41 km) race in honor of the colt Preakness who won the Dinner Party Stakes on the day Pimlico opened in 1870. The first Preakness, held on May 27, 1873, drew seven starters. John Chamberlain's three-year-old, My Sheba, collected the $2,050 winning purse by galloping home easily by 10 lengths. This was the largest margin of victory until 2004, when Smarty Jones won by 11 lengths.