The origins of horse racing tracks back many years before the likes of Winx or Melbourne Cup winner Makybe Diva were even a twinkle in the eye. Most records suggest that racing in fact began way back in 4500 BC where there is evidence of local tribes racing there steeds in Central Asia.
Racing as we know it today came to fruition close to the 12th Century where Lords and Noblemen would bring in processes and regulations to better validate the sport to grow into the global sport it is today.
However, with origins so deep rooted in society surely there are some interesting facts we’ve learnt along the way? Of Course! We take a look the top 10 interesting facts about horse racing.
1. Where Does the name ‘Sport Of Kings’ come from
Many noble men, lords and even royalty have had a vested interest in racing over the years but the big question is where did the term ‘The Sport Of Kings’ come from when we talk about the majesty of horse racing?
For that answer we travel back to 1605 and the British King of James !. King James the First was such an avid follower of horse racing he was once reminded by parliament to refocus on his duties to the throne.
King James was a famed lover of Horse Racing and during his tenure even established Newmarket Racecourse in the UK a royal resort. The resort would hold racing throughout the year with James I holding several meetings there.
Even when King James I handed over the reigns to his son King James II he continued the tradition of Horse Racing in the family by naming Newmarket the Headquarters of British Horse Racing and continuing to grow its popularity amongst aristocrats with the British society nicknaming it ‘The Sport Of Kings’.
2. Racing is a Billion Dollar Industry
We all know that in some capacity or another there is a lot of money in horse racing. However when you consider it on a Global scale you see the true value with it reported to be worth more then $300bn USD across the world.
What’s one of the most surprising elements of the Global revenue breakdown of horse racing is the amount of revenue see produced by the industry in the USA. For a country that doesn’t allow gambling except at Casinos and Race Tracks or licenced venues, the USA generates nearly $102bn in revenue from Horse Racing.
When we look at the volume of money in racing however you don’t have to travel far to see ridiculous sums of money being pumped into racing with the Japanese Racing Association being valued at over $25bn and one of the quickest growing racing economies globally.
Just two years ago it was estimated that punters in the land of the rising sun wagered a whopping $3 trillion in bets across the year in Japan with the likes of the Japan Cup, Ten Oh Sho and other Group 1 racings drawing huge international crowds.
3. All horses have the same birthday
Well its at least applicable to all thoroughbred horses anyway. Obviously it would be just shy of miracle status if all horses were born on the same day however in the Northern Hemisphere all horses are given a January 1st birthday while horses in the Southern Hemisphere are given a birthday on the 1st August.
The reason there is a blanket placed across horses born in a particular year is so that it makes it easier to track the horses age. Especially when it comes to big races that are held for set ages such as the Golden Slipper, Magic Millions Guineas or Champagne Stakes which are for two and three year old at Group One Level.
Many breeders will attempt to produce foals as close to the August and January deadlines to allow the offspring as much time as possible to develop between racing and birth. A horses gestation period is 11 months and with horses not going into heat until the spring, lights are often used to trick Mares into breeding at the right time.
4. The Queen Of England Is A Huge Racing Fan
Queen Elizabeth II is a huge horse racing fan and has owned hundreds of horses across the years which have delivered her more than 1,600 thoroughbred wins.
Her majesty has come a long way from the Shetland Pony she was gifted as he first horse. She now owns and breeds a number of active racehorses after inheriting a significant number of pedigree from her racing enthusiast father King George VI.
The Queen of England is not just a lover of thoroughbreds however having bred and reared a number of Shetland, Fell and Highland ponies.
It is expected that her enthusiasm for racing will continue for generations with her Grand daughter Zara Tindell the first Royal to appear at the olympics, competing in the equestrian sport of show jumping.
5. Horse names are by pedigree
We’ve seen some creative names for horses over the years with the likes of Horsey McHorseface, Snitzel and The Cleaner all cult figures in the world of racing but how do they come by their names.
With no horse allowed to have the same name as another, the easiest way to name a runner is through a combination of its pedigree and breeding. Most horses are a linear name from the Sire or Dam (Mother and father) however in some scenarios and ownership group will get creative and name a pair of the two.
In some cases you will get a scenario where owners go there own way like with Makybe Diva. The three time Melbourne Cup winner is owned by South Australian tuna fisherman Tony Šantić, who named her after five of his employees - Maureen, Kylie, Belinda, Diane, and Vanessa - by taking the first two letters from each of their names
6. The Oldest Horse Race In The World Is In The UK
With its origins dating back to 1519, the Kiplingcotes Derby is the oldest horse race in the world that still takes place to this current day. The race still oozes traditionalism with the rules on the race being if it is ever missed then the race is canceled forever.
The Kiplingcotes Derby is run in the little village of East Riding of Yorkshire on the third Thursday of March each year with horses of any age or breeding allowed to enter the contest.
The race is held over a 4 mile course of farmland and starts at the former site of the Kiplingcotes Station in Etton each year.
The race has only ever been called off four times. Once during a heavy British winter in 1947, in 2001 due to the foot and mouth pandemic and then again in 2018 when the course was badly damaged by off road vehicles. The final time was in 2021 where covid restrictions meant that only two horses could enter the race.
Despite being called off at least one rider has ridden the course and adhered to the rules to ensure the race has been ridden every year to avoid being canceled as per the original rules.
Unlike the millions floated around in today's markets the Kiplingcotes Derby still sticks with the original prize money for the race with the winner taking home a cool £50 in prize money and the second place horse taking home £4 as a runner up prize. Not so good though when you consider entry to the race is £5.
7. Who was the fastest racehorse of all time?
Its a common misconception that Secretariat was the fastest racehorse of all time and even though for a while he might have been and he may also hold a number of speed records for the big races in America it is actually a horse by the name of Winning Brew who holds the Guinness Book of Records for the fastest speed set by a horse.
Winning Brew was trained by American trainer Francis Vitale who saw his runner achieve a speed of 43.97mph on the 14th May 2008 at Penn National Racecourse.
For context on the speed that Winning Brew achieved when winning the race, the average pace of a Kentucky Derby winner is around 37mph with Secretariat winning the race at 38mph.
8. The most expensive racehorse ever was $70m USD
Fusaichi Pegasus was the winner of the 2000 Kentucky Derby and a champion American racehorse who was subsequently sold for a whopping $70m USD during a record breaking auction in the same year.
Fusaichi Pegasus was bought at a yearling sale by Fusao Sekiguchi for $4m and was named after his owner taking the Fusa and then Ichi which is the Japanese word for Number 1 or Best. Onced combined with the mythical flying horse from Greek mythology you’ve got Fusaichi Pegasus.
After winning the Kentucky Derby Fusaichi Pegasus went on to be defeated in the Preakness Stakes and did not run in the third leg of the triple crown, The Belmont Stakes.
Instead Fusaichi Pegasus would head to auction where Irish breeding giant Coolmore Stud would spend the huge sum of $70m USD (£35m) to acquire the stallion prospect. After a poor showing at stud Fusaichi Pegasus would see his stud fee drop from $150,000 in $7,500 in 2017 and being retired from stud completely in 2020.
9. Triple Crown Record Holder
Only 13 horses have ever completed the Triple Crown of American racing however only one has ever won them and set records in each one on the way to winning the three American Group One races.
Secretariat as covered in our last Pro Group Racing Magazine article was one of the greatest ever horses to race in history and his achievements can’t be questioned given he won the Triple Crown of the Kentucky Derby. Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes but then set speed records in each of them that haven’t been beaten to this day.
He won the Kentucky Derby at 1:59.4 minutes, the Preakness Stakes at 1:53.00 minutes, and the Belmont Stakes at 2:24.00 minutes. Not only does he hold the fastest time for the Belmont Stakes, but Secretariat also won by the biggest distance at 31 lengths.
10. Who has the longest ever win streak in racing?
When we think of winning streaks in Australia racing we instantly turn our minds to four time Cox Plate winner Winx who had one of the greatest undefeated streaks ever recorded in racing history. However it’s not quite the longest.
We have to travel to South America to find the horse with the longest win streak ever and a horse by the name of Camerero. A Puertorican racehorse Camerero had an impressive race record of 73 wins from 75 starts including an impressive 56 race win streak.
When Camerero was racing Puerto Rico had been ravaged by poverty meaning that only two racetracks were active for him to race at and when he ran his final race he had only accumulated $43,553 USD in prize money despite clocking up more than 50 race wins.
To this day Camerero is honored in Puerto Rico for his achievements and still has a race track named in his honour - Hipodromo Camerero.