Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Horse-racing, especially in the form of chariot-racing, was a favourite sport amongst the ancient Greeks. It is mentioned in the Iliad, and formed a prominent feature both of the great national games and the local festivals. It was one of the chief performances which took place in the Roman circus (q.v.). Amongst the primitive Teutonic tribes it appears to have been connected with certain religious observances. Horse-races were held at Smithfield in the 12th century, and the Chester races date back to 1512. It was mainly owing to the patronage of James I. that horse-racing became a national sport in England. Much care was now expended on the training of horses and the instruction of jockeys. The prize at this time was usually a small ball or bell of gold or silver. Races took place at Newmarket in 1605, and had become regularly established there in 1640. The races on Epsom Downs, then called Banstead Downs, were also established in the early part of the 17th century. Towards the middle of the century gold and silver cups came into vogue as prizes instead of bells. The sport continued to flourish under royal patronage, especially that of Queen Anne, who, besides instituting several plates, entered and ran horses in her own name. In her reign the Doncaster races were established (1703). A famous racer of this period wras Flying Childers, who in or about 1721 ran 3 m. 4 f. 93 y. at Newmarket in 6 m. 40 s. The three great races for three-year-olds, the St. Leger, Oaks, and Derby (q.v.), were instituted in 1776, 1779, and 1780: the first (at Doncaster) by Colonel St. Leger, the two latter (at Epsom) by the twelfth Earl of Derby. The Oaks Stakes were so called from a seat of the Earl at Woodmansterne. As these two races take place in May or early June, whilst those at Doncaster are held in September, the winners of the two earlier stakes are brought into competition in the race for the St. Leger. The Ascot races, held on Ascot Heath, near Windsor, were established by the Duke of Cumberland, son of George II. They have always remained under the special patronage of the Royal Family, and occupy a very important place in the calendar of fashion. The Goodwood meeting, which dates from 1802, is held in July on the downs adjoining Goodwood Park, the seat of the Duke of Richmond, near Chichester.

Early in the history of horse-racing the "weight-for-age" principle was introduced, according to which the weight bor.ie by each horse was proportioned to his age. But it was found that the reputation gained by the fleeter horses prevented competition, and "handicapping" was substituted. Under this system a greater or less weight is assigned to a horse according to his known or presumed powers, but it is very doubtful whether the result is really to place the competitors on the same level. Two-year-olds are not admitted to handicaps; like the three-year-olds they have. races of their own, the most important being the Middle Park Plate, called the "two-year-old Derby," at the Newmarket Second October meeting. The chief handicap races are the Goodwood and Ascot Stakes, the Chester, Ascot, Goodwood, and Manchester Cups, the three Liverpool Cups, the Northumberland Plate, the Czarewitch and Cambridgeshire at Newmarket, the Great Ebor at York, the City and Suburban at Epsom, and the Lincoln Handicap. The Two Thousand and One Thousand Guineas for three-year-olds at Newmarket are run on the same terms as the Derby, Oaks, and St. Leger, for which they are preparatory - i.e. the horses carry equal weights, 8st. 101b. The One Thousand Guineas and the Oaks are confined to fillies ; in the others, which are open to both fillies and colts, the former are given an advantage of 3 lbs.

During the present century horse-racing has made much progress on the Continent, especially in France. The French Derby (Prix du Jockev Club) was established in 1836, the French Oak's (Prix de Diane) in 1843; but the great event of the racing year in France is the Grand Prix de Paris (in June). The sport, finds favour also in Germany and Austria, and is now gaining ground in Italy.

Foreign horses, mostly of English parentage, have often been highly successful on the English turf; thus the French horse Gladiateur won the Two Thousand, Derby, and St. Leger in 1865, and the Derby has since fallen to the Hungarian Kisber in 1876, the French Rayon d'Or in 1879, and the American Iroquois in 1881.

Flat-racing in England is mainly under the direction of the Jockey Club, which is said to have been founded in 1750. Its rules were thoroughly revised in 1889. Besides the ordinary flat-racing there are steeplechasing (q.v.), hurdle-racing, and trotting (q.v.); the last is much in vogue in America. Betting (q.v.) is- an invariable accompaniment of horse-racing in England.