UK Horse Racing
Beginners Guide to Horse Racing
Every year, more and more people are going racing at Britain’s racecourses and with more fixtures than ever before, especially at weekends, you are spoiled for choice as racecourses continue to combine sporting excitement with a wide range of extra entertainment.
Finding a race meeting that suits you has never been easier so whether you’re going as a couple, a family or group of friends you will have a great day at the races.
Get on a winner at the bookies! 1,340 meetings at 59 racecourses
There are 59 racecourses spread throughout
Britain and meetings are held throughout the year
including many Sundays and evenings.
There are two types of racing, Flat racing, prominent in the summer, and Jump racing which is popular in the winter. Flat racing takes place on a flat track on either turf (March to November) or an all-weather surface. Jump racing is run on turf over obstacles known either as steeplechase fences or hurdles.
When did it all start?
It is impossible to say exactly when the Thoroughbred developed but in the late 17th and early 18th centuries British breeders began crossing their native mares with imported stallions from North Africa and the Middle East. Those which were mated with the Godolphin Arabian, Byerley Turk or the Darley Arabian ultimately produced the modern Thoroughbred.
The three founding fathers of the turf
Following the family tree of the Godolphin Arabian, the Byerley Turk and the Darley Arabian is rather like compiling a ‘who’s who’ of racing champions!
The Godolphin Arabian
- Foaled about 1724
- Probably exported from Yemen via Syria to the stud of the Bey of Tunis
- Initially given to Louis XV of France in 1730, he was then imported to Britain
- Sired the best racehorse of the day, called Lath
- The Godolphin Arabian’s line hasn’t won the Derby since Santa Claus in 1964, and has recently been overshadowed by the Darley Arabian’s descendants
The Byerley Turk
- Foaled about 1680
- His line includes Herod, foaled in 1758, who was leading sire eight times
- Descendent Highflyer and his sons were champion stallions 23 times in 25 years
- The Byerley Turk’s line now has much less influence than that of the Darley Arabian
The Darley Arabian
- Foaled about 1700
- Amongst others, he sired Bartlett’s Childers whose great grandson was Eclipse
- Over 80% of modern racehorses can trace their descent to Eclipse, including the great Canadian stallion Northern Dancer
The early Thoroughbreds ran in match races, mostly at around four miles, which suited the stamina rich, tough Arabian influence. But in the latter quarter of the 18th century, the nature of racing changed with the inception of the far shorter St Leger, Oaks and Derby, and an increasing emphasis on racing two and three-year-olds.
Thoroughbreds are often highly-strung creatures but it is this nervous energy which enables them to run faster than other breeds of horse. They are capable of clocking approximately 45 miles per hour.
For more information about UK Horse Racing, visit www.thebhb.co.uk