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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.

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Seabiscuit on workout with George Wolf
Seabiscuit (May 23, 1933—May 17, 1947) was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse in the United States. From an inauspicious start, Seabiscuit became an unlikely champion and a symbol of hope to many Americans during the Great Depression. Seabiscuit became the subject of a 1949 film, The Story of Seabiscuit; a 2001 book, Seabiscuit: An American Legend; and a 2003 film, Seabiscuit, which was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Seabiscuit was foaled on May 23, 1933, from the mare Swing On and sired by Hard Tack, a son of Man o' War. Seabiscuit was named for his father, as hardtack or "sea biscuit" is the name for a type of cracker eaten by sailors. At Santa Anita Park, a life-sized bronze statue of Seabiscuit is on display. In 1958, he was voted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame, and the Blood-Horse magazine ranking of the top 100 U.S. thoroughbred champions of the 20th Century, Seabiscuit was ranked twenty-fifth. War Admiral was thirteenth, and Seabiscuit's grandsire and War Admiral's sire, Man o' War, placed first.

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Did you know...

Eurythmic, ch. h. 1916

  • ... that Eurythmic (pictured) was a versatile Australian-bred Thoroughbred racehorse who won over distances ranging from 5 furlongs (1,000 metres) to 2 miles (3,200 metres)?
  • ... that Encosta De Lago's service fee rose to AUD$302,500 in the 2008 season, during which he served 227 mares who produced 166 live foals?

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Floorplan of the Circus Maximus
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).

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The Preakness Stakes is an American Grade I stakes race for three-year-old horses, held on the third Saturday in May each year at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. Ran at 1-3/16 mile (1.91 km), colts and geldings carry 126 pounds (57 kg); fillies 121 lb (55 kg). The Preakness Stakes has been termed "The Run for the Black-Eyed Susans" because a blanket of Black-eyed Susans is traditionally placed around the winner's neck. The attendance at the Preakness Stakes ranks second in North America, typically only trailing the Kentucky Derby.

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 Governor Oden 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.

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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
Wagering Arbitrage bettingBetting exchangeBookmakingParimutuel betting

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