Horse Racing in The United States
Horse racing is a very well attended sport in the United States, attracting large audiences at a number of racecourses across the country. Its history in this part of the world dates back to the 17th century, and the sport has evolved significantly ever since. Today, a number of different types of horse racing takes place in America, although it's Thoroughbred racing that is by far the most prestigious and popular form of racing. Betting on horse racing is enjoyed by many Americans, particularly when it comes to the big horse races that are held in the United States every year.
History of American Horse Racing
Horse racing in the United States effectively began in 1665, when the first horse racing track was built in New York, named Newmarket. The first race meeting took place at the course, supervised by the governor of New York at that time. Despite horse racing proving popular in the local area, it was some time until there was organized horse racing throughout the country. This was kick started in 1868 by the first publication of the American Stud Book, the breed registry for Thoroughbred horses in the United States. Towards the end of the 19th century, there were over 300 active racetracks in the country, and the American Jockey Club had been formed.
Early in the 20th century, bookmaking was banned in most states in America, and this nearly resulted in horse racing dying out completely. However, the introduction of legalized parimutuel betting in 1908 led to a resurgence of the sport and horse racing began to thrive once again. During the Second World War, the sport went into decline, but some fabulous horses in the 1970s seemed to spark a renewed interest. That decade saw Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed all win the US Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing; the popularity of horse racing was a growing trend that has continued to this day.
Horse Racing in the United States Today
Although there are many forms of horse racing taking place in America such as endurance racing, harness racing, Quarter Horse racing, and steeple chasing; there's one in particular that seems to capture far more attention than the others. Thoroughbred racing is incredibly popular across the country, and many big races are watched not just by Americans, but by horse racing fans all over the world. The races that make up the US Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, one of several triple crowns in horse racing, are very famous. The trio starts off with the Kentucky Derby, followed by the Preakness Stakes, and culminates with the Belmont Stakes. You can find more information, along with other major races and racecourses, further down the page.
The main races in the US are graded stakes races, of which there are three different levels, and the races are graded based on certain criteria. The highest class of race is the Grade I, which has the big prize pools and attracts the best horses. The American Graded Stakes Committee, part of the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, is responsible for grading races in the US. Certain conditions will be applied to some races. For example, there are maiden races open only to horses that have yet to win a race and handicap races where an official handicapper assigns extra weights to the competing horses to try to balance the competition.
The control of Thoroughbred horse racing in America is generally done at the state level: there are numerous authorities involved in the licensing of jockeys, owners, and trainers along with implementing other regulatory matters. The American Jockey Club is a national organization that produces the American Stud Book and looks after all matters pertaining to breeding history and pedigree. Other forms of racing are typically regulated by other bodies, such as the National Steeplechase Association which monitors jump racing.
Horse Racing Betting in the United States
Betting on horse racing is an essential part of the sport pretty much everywhere in the world. The betting and the sport itself are intrinsically linked, and it's unlikely that the sport would exist if it weren't for betting. As mentioned above, horse racing in America nearly ceased completely while bookmaking was illegal in many states and only recovered when legalized parimutuel betting was introduced. The legalities of horse racing betting in the US are pretty complex, and the laws differ from state to state. Generally speaking, if you are betting at the racecourse itself, there are no issues at all; for off course betting you should check your local laws. The same applies if you are betting on US horse racing from outside America.
The most common form of horse racing betting these days is almost certainly online, and there's a host of horse racing betting sites to be found on the internet. The best of which will typically cover horse racing around the world and offer a variety of bets that you can place. Most will also offer bonuses and run promotions based on how much and how often you bet, so you can earn some decent extra money when betting online.
Major Racecourses & Races in the US
There are many horse racing venues in the United States, and many major races take place. While everyone will have their own favorites, there are four races in particular which most would agree are the biggest in the country.
- The Kentucky Derby, which takes place at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
- The Preakness Stakes, held in Baltimore, Maryland at the Pimlico Race Course.
- The Belmont Stakes, run at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York.
- The Breeder's Cup, held at one of a number of different racecourses each year.
The first three races listed above collectively form the US Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, as mentioned earlier. The fourth race is one of the richest in the world with a prize pool of $5 million. Its venue rotates between different racecourses, which include Santa Anita Park (in California), Monmouth Park Racetrack (in New Jersey), and Hollywood Park and Gulfstream Park (in Florida). It has also been held at Churchill Downs and Belmont Park.
Author: Brad Johnson
Updated: March 2015
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