Horse racing is a major sport in Great Britain with a long
history. In this part of the world, horse racing is known as the
sport of kings, basically because of its strong association with
royalty and nobility. Betting on horse racing is also very
popular and an important part of the sport as well as the main
foundation of the gambling industry in Great Britain. Racing
takes place every day in Britain, with the exception of Good
Friday and Christmas Day. The sport is governed by the British
Racing Authority, and some of the most famous horse races in the
world take place at regional racecourses.
History of Horse Racing in Great Britain
Organized horse racing in Great Britain took off under the
reign of King Charles II in the 17th century, but horse races
were taking place long before. The earliest horse races in Great
Britain are believed to have been held in Yorkshire around 200
AD, arranged by soldiers of the Roman Empire. In subsequent
years, there were regular horse fairs throughout Great Britain,
and it’s widely believed that horse races often occurred at
these events. The first official record of a horse race dates
back to 1174 at a horse fair in London.
Early in the 17th century, James I played a key role in
introducing horse racing in Newmarket: now known as the home
of horse racing in England. Later in that century, regular race
meetings were being held at Newmarket, and the first Gold Cup
event took place there in 1634. When Oliver Cromwell was in
charge of the country, he banned all forms of horse racing
(1654) despite being a keen horse breeder. Just a few years
later, Charles II came to the throne and horse racing was
resurrected and began to flourish. The importing of foreign
stallions from overseas for breeding with native mares, a
practice that had been started by Henry VIII in the 16th
century, led to the creation of the Thoroughbred horse; and to
this day this breed is the most prominent in horse racing.
Horse racing continued to increase in popularity over the
years, and in 1740 the Parliament introduced an act aimed at
curtailing the growth of the sport. However, this didn’t have
much effect, and a few years later it became the first sport to
be formally regulated in Great Britain. In 1752, the Jockey Club
was established that introduced the first official rules of
racing. Later in the century, a number of races that are still
held today were founded, such as the St. Leger Stakes and the
The following century saw horse racing establish itself as a
leading sport with a huge following. Audiences were increasing,
and the sport was getting coverage in all major newspapers.
Perhaps more significantly, horse racing betting was increasing
dramatically and professional on-course bookmakers had arrived
on the scene.
Such was the popularity of horse racing that it was of the
only sport that continued through both world wars in the 20th
century, although the number of races held was much lower during
these periods. In the 1960s, there were two major developments
that were to affect horse racing in Great Britain forever.
First, televisions became common household appliances and the
sport was regularly broadcast. Second, off-course horse betting
was legalized and bookmaking shops began to open around the
country making it far easier to bet. Today, football is the only
sport that receives more television coverage than horse racing
in Great Britain, and betting on horse racing is a very common
Modern Day British Horse Racing
Every year in Great Britain, around 10,000 horse races take
place at well over 1,000 race meetings. Tens of millions in
prize money is awarded. Many millions attend these races and
even more watch them on television. Many racecourses have ceased
to exist over the years, for one reason or another, but there
are still around 60 licensed racecourses, some of which date
back hundreds of years. Horse racing takes place, broadly
speaking, in two forms: flat racing and jump racing.
Flat racing, as the name suggests, is racing on a flat
surface. This is usually grass, but some other surfaces are used
such as synthetic ones suitable for all-weather racing. Jump
racing is done over obstacles and is officially known as
National Hunt racing. National Hunt racing itself is divided
into two separate forms: hurdles and steeplechases. The
majority of jump racing takes place during the winter as the
ground is softer at this time and therefore less dangerous for
As mentioned above, the Jockey Club was originally
responsible for governing the sport of horse racing. In 1993,
the British Horseracing Board was formed; and these two
organizations shared the governance of horse racing. In 2006,
the Jockey Club formed the Horseracing Regulatory Authority to
continue the regulation of the sport while they shifted their
main focus to the racecourse and gallops they owned. The
following year, the Horseracing Regulatory Authority and the
British Horseracing Board joined forces to form the British
Horseracing Authority (the BHA). The BHA is responsible for the
sport of horse racing today.
Betting on Horse Racing
Betting on the sport is just as important as the sport itself
in Great Britain. Bookmakers and betting firms play a big role
and are responsible for a great deal of the prize money awarded
in addition to spending significant sums of money on the
sponsorship of race meetings. The vast majority of horse racing
spectators enjoy betting on the outcome of a race. For many,
this is purely recreational and a simple way to make the races a
bit more exciting. Some, however, take their horse racing
betting very seriously and spend a significant amount of time
studying the form and researching the horses.
There are a number of ways you can bet on horse racing in
Great Britain. If you are actually at the racecourse, you will
have the choice of a number of on-course bookmakers as well as
the Tote. The Tote is the official horse racing pari-mutuel
betting organization in Great Britain, which used to be state-
owned before being sold to the private sector in 2011. If you
aren’t at the racecourse, it’s still very easy to get to bet.
Retail bookmaking shops are very common, and it can be found in most
towns and cities. Additionally, most major bookmakers will offer
a telephone betting service.
In recent years, more and more people are doing their betting
online. There are number of benefits such as the convenience
factor and the fact that most betting sites incentivize
customers with bonuses and loyalty programs.
Major Racecourses & Races in Great Britain
Great Britain is home to some of the most famous horse races
and racecourses in the world. As mentioned, Newmarket is
considered the home of British horse racing and is well known in
horse racing circles across the world. The Grand National, which
takes place at Entree in Liverpool, is without a doubt one of
the biggest horse races to take place each year. You also have
the Royal Ascot Festival and the Cheltenham Festival, which
attract worldwide audiences.
There’s also the three flat races which make up the United
Kingdom Triple Crown. The 2,000 Guineas Stakes takes place at
Newmarket, the Epsom Derby is held at Epsom Downs, and the St.
Leger Stakes is run at Doncaster Racecourse. Other classic races
include the 1,000 Guineas Stakes and the Epsom Oaks.
The information found on Gamblingsites.org is for entertainment purposes only. It is a purely informational website that does not accept wagers of any kind. Although certain pages within Gamblingsites.org feature or promote other online websites where users are able to place wagers, we encourage all visitors to confirm the wagering and/or gambling regulations that are applicable in their local jurisdiction (as gambling laws may vary in different states, countries and provinces).
Gamblingsites.org uses affiliates links from some of the sportsbooks/casinos it promotes and reviews, and we may receive compensation from those particular sportsbooks/casinos in certain circumstances. Gamblingsites.org does not promote or endorse any form of wagering or gambling to users under the age of 18. If you believe you have a gambling problem, please visit BeGambleAware or GAMCARE for information and help.