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Introduction

Horse racing at Golden Gate Fields, 2017

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.

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A modern recreation of chariot racing in Puy du Fou
Chariot racing was one of the most popular ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine sports. Chariot racing was often dangerous to both driver and horse as they frequently suffered serious injury and even death, but generated strong spectator enthusiasm. In the ancient Olympic Games, as well as the other Panhellenic Games, the sport was one of the most important equestrian events.

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.

Selected biography

1877 etching by C. Lloyd
Springbok (1870–1897) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse who won the seventh Belmont Stakes in 1873. Foaled in 1870, he was sired by the imported stallion Australian, his dam was a daughter of Lexington. During his racing career he started 25 races, winning 17 of them. Besides the Belmont, Springbok won the Saratoga Cup twice, in 1874 and 1875 and was named Champion Older Male horse in 1874 and 1875. After retiring from the racetrack, he sired five stakes winners and died in 1897.

Springbok was sired by the imported horse Australian and out of the mare Hester. Hester was by Lexington and out of a mare named Heads I Say by imported stallion Glencoe. Springbok was foaled in 1870, and was a chestnut stallion, bred by A. J. Alexander of Woodburn, Kentucky. Springbok was one of 26 stakes winning foals sired by Australian. Springbok was Hester's only stakes winning foal.

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Did you know...

The chuckwagon of professional driver Kurt Bensmiller

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Selected race track

Entrance to Santa Anita Park grandstands
Santa Anita Park is a thoroughbred racetrack in Arcadia, California, United States. It offers some of the prominent racing events in the United States during the autumn and winter, including both the Santa Anita Derby and the Santa Anita Handicap. Lucky Baldwin initially founded a racetrack on the present site in what is today, Arcadia, outside of the city of Los Angeles in the 1800s but it later closed. The newly-formed Los Angeles Turf Club reopened the track on Christmas Day in 1934. In February 1935, the first Santa Anita Handicap was run. The race's $100,000 purse, the largest of any race ever in the United States until that time, produced its nickname the Big 'Cap.

Santa Anita Park was opened on December 25, 1934 and is the oldest racetrack in Southern California. It was designed in the art deco style by architect Gordon B. Kaufman. Santa Anita has a one-mile (1,609 m) synthetic "cushion" main track which rings a turf course measuring 9/10 of a mile, or 7 furlongs plus 132 feet (1,448 m). In addition, it has an unusual hillside turf course which crosses the dirt and is used mainly to run turf races at a distance of "about" 6½ furlongs (exact distance 64½ feet less than same). This type of track is one of the few of its kind in America.

Selected race

Derby, the Paddock (1892)
The Epsom Derby, known colloquially as The Derby and internationally as the Epsom Derby, is a Group 1 flat horse race in Great Britain which is open to three-year-old Thoroughbred colts and fillies. It is run at Epsom Downs over a distance of 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 10 yards (2,423 metres), and it is scheduled to take place each year in early June. It is Britain's richest horse race, and the most prestigious of the country's five Classics. It is sometimes referred to as the Blue Riband of the turf.

The Derby originated at a celebration following the first running of the Oaks Stakes in 1779. A new race was planned, and it was decided that it should be named after the host of the party, the 12th Earl of Derby. The inaugural running of the Derby was held on 4 May 1780. It was won by Diomed, a colt owned by Sir Charles Bunbury, who collected prize money of £1,065 15s.

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History HorseEvolution of the horseDomestication of the horseDarley ArabianGodolphin ArabianByerley Turk
Governing bodies Australian Racing BoardBritish Horseracing AuthorityFrance GalopHong Kong Jockey ClubHorse Racing IrelandInternational Cataloguing Standards CommitteeJapan Racing AssociationJockey Club of CanadaMacau Jockey ClubNational Association of RacingNational Steeplechase AssociationThe Jockey ClubWeatherbys
Terminology Glossary of Australian and New Zealand puntingBackstretchBlindersChute (racecourse)FurlongGoingHandicappingHorse lengthPhoto finishPurse distributionRacecardRing bitStarting barrierStarting gateStirrup
Types of racing Chariot racingEndurance ridingFlat racingHarness racingHurdling (horse race)SteeplechaseThoroughbredQuarter Horse
Race classes Claiming race Conditions racesGraded stakes raceGroup racesHandicap raceHurdling (horse race)Maiden race horseWeight for Age
Professions BookmakerGroomHorse trainerJockeyOdds compilerRace callerStud MasterStrapper
Awards Cartier Racing AwardEclipse AwardJRA AwardLester AwardScobie Breasley MedalSovereign Award
Breeding Breed registryEquine anatomyEquine conformationFoalHorse breedingHorse careInbreedingLive foal guaranteeMareStallionStud farmStud feeThoroughbred breeding theories
Graded races AustraliaBarbadosCanadaFranceGermanyGreat BritainGreat Britain (NH)IrelandIreland (NH)ItalyPeruSingaporeUnited States
Hall of Fame inductees AustraliaCanadaJapanNew ZealandUnited States
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