The Most Interesting Horse Racing Facts

If you are a horse racing fan, then you may think that you know everything about the sport – but do you? You may well head over to and find the best odds at Smarkets sportsbook; armed with the knowledge of the race and the racers involved. But what do you actually know about the sport itself? Here, we will look at some of the most interesting facts about horse racing throughout the years.

Horse Racing is an Ancient Sport

When we say it’s an ancient sport – we really mean ancient. In fact, it dates all the way back to approximately 4,500 BC when the nomadic tribesmen in Central Asia – the men credited with the domestication of horses) started racing them for a bit of competitive fun. However, it wasn’t until 1,000 BC that the Ancient Greeks started chariot racing. This sport became popular all over the world, being adopted by the Romans and Egyptians.


Moving forward a few hundred years, to 664 BC, it was in the 33rd Olympiad that horseback racing was confirmed as an official sport – and it was then that the riders were named ‘jockeys’. It was the Romans who brought the sport to Britain, during the common era – and the sport has flourished ever since.

Horse Racing Reached America in the 1600s

It wasn’t until the mid 1600s that the sport of horse racing reached the shores of America – and the very first US racecourse was constructed in Newmarket, in colonial America. The most distinguished racehorses were transported over from England and bred, with more hybrid foals born and raised, becoming champions.


As time passed, the popularity of the sport grew and by the end of the 1800s there were more than 300 tracks open in the US. In the 1900s, horse racing had ups and downs. The century started with the Great Depression and so a number of the states opted to legalise horse racing betting to help the economy. In 1945, after the end of WW2, horse racing popularity was on the decline and it didn’t improve again until the 1970s. It was the introduction of the Triple Crown that resparked American interest.

Horse Racing Owes its Survival to Betting

Since the beginning of horse racing, people have been putting bets on the winner. It is betting on the outcome of the race that draws most people into the world of horse racing. It’s also for this reason that it remains one of the most popular sports across the globe to this day.


At the start of the 20th century in the US, there was very much an anti-gambling stance – and many states outlawed horse racing betting. This came close to completely killing off the sport. However, thanks to the emergence of the Triple Crown – consisting of the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, it started to regain its popularity again.

Thoroughbred Racehorses Cannot be Given a Random Name

If you look at the horse racing cards, you are bound to see plenty of strange and seemingly random names. However, you might be surprised to know that there is actually a lot of thought that goes into naming a thoroughbred racehorse. The breed registry for Canadian and US thoroughbreds, the Jockey Club, sets out a series of guidelines that need to be followed when naming a racehorse.


If you have purchased a thoroughbred that you are in the process of naming, then you are able to submit a maximum of six names to the Jockey Club, which they can decide from. However, rules stipulate that they have to be shorter than 18 characters in length – which includes spaces and punctuation. It is also prohibited to name your horse after a famous racetrack as well.


This is a sport filled with historical and interesting facts. From the age of the sport to the fact that every thoroughbred is considered one year older on January 1, there are many facets of horse racing. This is what has ensured that it has remained popular for thousands of years – and why people continue to enjoy watching and betting on the sport of kings.