Sport Of Kings – Horse Racing Matthew W. Ketron Eng 291-23 Prof. McElfresh December 8, 1999 The Sport of Kings Horse Racing is a contest of speed between two or more horses, usually Thoroughbreds, which are driven or ridden over a special race course. It is technically termed flat racing. One of the oldest known sports, and still popular in most countries, horse racing is also one of the most highly organized and commercialized sports. Flat races are contests of speed between two or more saddle horses, generally Thoroughbreds, ridden by jockeys on specially built tracks over distances from 440 yards to 2 miles.
The sport is termed flat racing to differentiate it from the steeplechase, which involves jumping over obstacles. To equalize the competition between horses of a given class, each animal is assigned a weight handicap based on factors such as its age, sex, and past performances, and the jockey’s experience. Lead bars are carried in a holding pad under the saddle to make up the difference the assigned weight and jockey’s weight. The origination of flat races can be traced back as early as 1140. The first line of a long line of kings named Henry tried to improve his Hobby horses by importing Arab stallions to give them more speed and stronger power.Throughout the Crusades, from 1096 to 1270, Turkish cavalry horses dominated the larger English warhorses, leading the Crusaders to buy, capture or steal their share of the stallions. After the War or the Roses, which decimated England’s horse population, King Henry aimed to rebuild his cavalry. Both the king and his son, Henry VIII, imported horses from Italy, Spain and North Africa, and maintained their own racing stable.
Henry’s Hobbys, as they were called, raced against horses owned by other nobility, leading the word “hobby” to mean a “costly pastime indulged in by the idle rich.” It also lends credibility to horse racing being labeled as the Sport of Kings(DRF Staff). Henry VIII focused on elevating the quality of his horses by breeding to quality bloodlines and this practice is employed to this day.”All modern Thoroughbreds have as common ancestors one or more of three stallions, the Byerly Turk, the Darley Arabian, and the Godolphin Barb, which were imported into Great Britain from the Middle East and North Africa between 1689 and 1724 (DRF Staff).” Mated with strong English mares, they produced offspring with both speed and endurance.
Thoroughbreds that compete in organized flat racing are registered in the official national stud books of their country of birth. The British stud book was begun in 1791. Stud records in the United States date from 1873. When horses that are intended for racing careers are two years old, they begin training that includes accepting the weight of the rider and their commands. Although most two-year-olds race, Thoroughbreds are usually in their prime between the ages of three and five, and horses up to ten have competed successfully.
Some races are for horses of one sex only, but most races are open to entries of either sex.A female horse is known as a filly until its fifth birthday and as a mare thereafter. A castrated male horse of any age is called a gelding. An ungelded male horse is known as a colt until its fifth birthday, when it is thereafter referred to simply as a horse or a stallion, regardless of age. Champion stallions are of great value to their owners, not only because of their race winnings but also because other horse owners and breeders pay substantial sums for the privilege of mating their own brood mares with these stallions.
The expectation is that the offspring will become champions as well. The purchase price of a Thoroughbred suitable for racing or breeding purposes ranges from several thousand to more than a million dollars.The earning potential, however, for successful Thoroughbreds during and after their active racing careers is high.
In 1996 Cigar broke the career earnings record of $6,679,242, set by Alysheba. Another leading money earner, John Henry, a gelding, raced through 1984 and retired at the age of nine with earnings of $6,597,947. One of the highest prices paid for a Thoroughbred was about $30 million for the European champion Storm Bird, purchased by a syndicate of American breeders in 1981.
“New stallions for the year 2000 will include Kentucky Derby/Preakness winners Silver Charm and Charismatic top the cast of new stallions for 2000.However, it’s the grade I-winning Forestry who will have the highest-priced stud fee of $50,000” (Bloodhorse Interactive). Unlike the courts or playing fields used in many other sports, racetracks are not uniform in construction and size. “Major tracks in the United States are ovals ranging from mile to 1 of a mile in circumference, composed of an outer loam or sand racing strip” (Track Facts). Most tracks also have parallel inner grass, or turf, courses. Tracks overseas are turf courses generally triangular in shape.Horses on U.S.
and Canadian tracks always race in a counterclockwise direction; in the United Kingdom and elsewhere some races are counterclockwise, others are clockwise. Some tracks are famous as the sites of specific races. Especially well known are the three classic races for three-year-olds in the United States, known as the Triple Crown: the Kentucky Derby, held at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky; the Preakness Stakes, at Pimlico, near Baltimore, Maryland; and the Belmont Stakes, at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, near New York City. Only 11 horses have been Triple Crown winners, capturing all three races in a single year: “Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1971), and Affirmed (1978)” (Churchill Downs). Most Thoroughbred races in the United States are held at distances ranging from six furlongs to two miles.A furlong is one eighth of a mile. Races are classified as stakes, handicap, allowance, or claiming events. To equalize competition, two-year-old horses race only against each other, not against older horses.
Many races are restricted to only three year olds such as the Triple Crown. Another race restriction that is commonplace is races only for female horses.There are essentially five different types of races that prove the class of a horse. Stakes races usually involve horses of the same age and sex, all of which are initially assigned the same weight. Certain deductions may be made later.
An example, three-year-olds are often allowed to carry less weight than older horses. Stakes races derive there name from the stake, or entry fee, owners must pay (Turfway). These fees, to which the track adds a purse, or contribution, establish the total amount from which prize money is paid to the first, second, third and fourth place finishers. Within the stakes race category there are are four sub-catagories they include: track based stake, grade three, grade two, and grade one.Grade one stakes races consist of the upper echelon horses and top purses.
Handicap races are events in which horses are assigned specific weights based upon their race records. The horse considered superior is assigned the highest weight, with the less recognized horses receiving proportionately lighter handicaps. Lead bars would be placed in the holding pad under the saddle to weigh down the favored horse.
Weight differences of fifteen to twenty pounds are commonplace in these events. Entries in allowance races are judged on their past performances.The track official known as the racing secretary takes into the account the number of races won and money earned. Allowance races typically have horses of about the same ability matched against one another. Another similar type of race is the maiden special weights. Horses that have never won a race are classified as maidens. These races consist of five to twelve non-winners bunched together to decide a first time winner. Claiming races are an opportunity to sell or purchase a horse.
The selling price of the entered horses is stipulated before the race, granting a buyer the opportunity to make a claim for that amount.The buyer takes possession of the horse at the completion of the race, regardless of its performance. If two or more interested parties claim the same horse at the same price, lots are drawn to determine the winning offer. Knowledgeable owners and trainers may use claiming races to obtain at bargain prices horses whose former owners underestimated the potential of their animals.
The 1999 Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic prior to winning the Derby was entered in a $30,000 claiming race (CD Online). Anyone could have claimed Charismatic and unknowingly purchased a future Derby winner. With several different catagories and class of races, tracks incorporate the types and offer nine or ten races per day.Most tracks operate in the afternoon. Several consecutive days or weeks of racing at a track is called a meet.
Horse races follow a strictly organized procedure. Horses are saddled and jockeys mount in the paddock area in full view of the spectators. Often escorted by outriders and riders on lead ponies, the horses are lead onto the track. This journey to the gate is called the post parade.The horses are then positioned in individual stalls within the starting gate, located at the starting line.
When the field is evenly aligned, the started presses a button to open the stall gates. Strategy is an important part of racing, particularly in contests of a mile or longer. Those horses that possess “early speed” are sent to the lead as soon as the race begins.
While jockeys on “come from behind” horses gallop more slowly at first to save energy for a stronger effort in the stretch. Whether the “speed” horses will maintain their early lead or yield to the fast-closing competitors depends on the horses’ quality and condition.Other variables known as “racing luck” are factors such as whether the jockeys make the right moves at the right time.
Races are examined by the track stewards and recorded on videotape. In addition, photoelectric timers measure the leading horse’s time at specific places around the track and at the finish line. The record for the fastest mile is 1 minute 32 1/5 seconds, in 1968 by the American horse Dr. Fager (Guinness). Setting a track record not only takes a fit horse but also a knowledgeable jockey and trainer. Most jockeys first learn to handle horses as exercise riders, riding in morning workouts.Jockeys are usually about 5 feet tall and weigh about 100 pounds.
They begin their jockey careers as apprentices, receiving weight allowances until they have won a stipulated number of races. Jockeys wear distinctive colored and patterned shirts and caps, called silks, they identify their horse’s owner, like a coat of arms. Every owner registers his silks with the Jockey Club. Even though Thoroughbred race riders are small, they have the strength and courage necessary to guide a horse thundering down the track at top speed. Leading jockeys have quick reflexes, a finely-developed sense of timing, and above all mastery of racing strategy and experience “a cool hand with a hot horse”(Bailey).
The technique of riding Thoroughbreds has evolved over the years.Jockeys sat upright until the end of the last century, when Tod Sloan developed the exaggerated forward seat position. Placing the rider’s weight over the horse’s center of gravity greatly reduces wind resistance, and more important, keeps a rider in greater balance with a horse at high speeds (Denman, 55). To insure that the horse will carry the precise assigned white, jockeys and their equipment weigh out before and weigh in after a race. Maintaining a proper weight is an important factor in a jockey’s life. Few weigh more than 105 pounds and those who have difficulty with excess poundage must diet constantly.Jockeys use specialized racing gear.
Underneath the racing silks, many jockeys wear a protective chest protector to protect from injury in case of a mishap. The racing saddle they use is very lightweight weighing less than four pounds. The carry a whip to urge the horse along. Goggles protect against mud and dirt.
Several jockeys have started to wear nasal strips to ensure proper breathing throughout the race. Jockeys also receive last minute in …