Often refered to as ‘The Sport of Kings’, for centuries horses have been raced for the purpose of gambling on the result. These days it is almost exclusively Thoroughbred horses that are raced, but Quarter horse and Arabian horse events are also held.
Betting on horse races is sanctioned and regulated by governments the world over and is a significant economic activity, with large racing industries filling state coffers with tax dollars.
Major horse racing countries include the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, France, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. Via the internet, online racebooks allow gamblers to follow and bet on nearly every race in every country.
The world’s richest horse race is the Dubai World Cup, with a prize of $6 million. In the United States, the Triple Crown is the most prestigious event, consisting of theKentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes.
In Great Britain they have two main types of horse racing – flat racing and National Hunt. The biggest flat races are the Royal Ascot Festival which has run since 1711, and the Epsom Derby – which is the second leg of the British Triple Crown. The biggest National Hunt race is the Grand National at Aintree, with 30 fence and hurdle obstacles making for quite a spectacle.
The southern hemisphere’s biggest race and perhaps the best racing carnival of all is Australia’s Melbourne Cup, held on the first Tuesday of November every year since 1861. It is known as the ‘Race that stops a Nation’ with race day being a public holiday in the city of Melbourne and over 120,000 people attending Flemington racecourse each year for the 3200m (two mile) cup. In 2007 over 700 million people from 120 countries tuned in to the live race broadcast.