Horse racing is a spectator sport that is extremely popular in the United States. It was introduced the United States in 1665 when the Newmarket course was established on the Salisbury Plains. This section of the plains is now called the Hempstead Plains, Long Island, New York. Ever since the establishment of this racetrack, horse racing as a bookmaking sport gained popularity in the United States. Some of the key types of horses raced in the nation are thoroughbreds, endurance breeds, and quarter horses. Of them, thoroughbreds are most popular in the United States.

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History of thoroughbred, endurance and quarter horse racing in the United States

Following the creation of the race track at Long Island in 1868, the American Stud Book was published. It was a breed registry that enabled the formation of an organized system of equestrianism in the United States. Several years later, by 1890, close to 314 racing tracks were operational in the nation. Four years later, the Jockey Club was formed in the United States. Since then, the club has been responsible for the publication of the American Stud Book.

At the beginning of the 20th century many Americans voiced an anti-gambling sentiment that nearly resulted in the banning of bookmaking and horse racing in the country. However, in 1908, pari-mutuel betting was introduced and it helped the horse racing industry to progress. Pari-mutuel betting is a system of wagering in which bets of a certain type are accumulated and pooled; house-takes and taxes are deducted; and payoffs shared among all winners.

Thoroughbred racing continued to flourish in the United States till the beginning of World War II. Following this, there was a period of dormancy in equestrianism. It was only when horses started winning the Triple Crown – a three race series comprising of the Preakness, Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes – did the sport regain its spectatorship in the United States.

Another form of equestrianism – endurance racing, in which horses are raced in a controlled manner over long distances – was started in 1955 in California. The first endurance race called the Tevis Cup is still a part of American equestrianism. The first race was carried out over a day and horses covered a hundred miles from Squaw Valley in Placer Country to Auburn. The United States’ first national association for endurance riding, the American Endurance Ride Conference, was established in 1972.

Racing with quarter horses was started in the country in 1674, at Henrico County, Virginia. The specialty of these race horses was that they were the first, original American horses to have been bred in the country. Quarter horses were intended to race in quarter races – one of the first horse race varieties in the country. These horses were a result of breeding thoroughbreds with American wild horses.

Harness Racing in the United States

Modern harness racing – one in which horses trot while pulling a two wheeled cart – has its roots in America. The first track for this race was created at the beginning of the 19th century. With harness racing increasing in popularity, horses were being bred specifically for this purpose. The horses, called Standardbreds were bred from Thoroughbreds and mares of mixed breed. By the 1900s, harness racing lost its popularity, but regained it when pari-mutuel betting was introduced.

Recent developments in US thoroughbred racing

Currently, one of the most widely practiced forms of thoroughbred racing in the United States is flat racing. In it, horses are raced on a level track at a speed that is predetermined. The race assesses the endurance and speed of the horses and the jockey’s skill at controlling his horse. Typically, in the United States, flat races are conducted on all-weather ground or in dirt. Some of the thoroughbred derbies in use in the country are Santa Anita Derby, Florida Derby, American Derby and New Jersey Derby among others.

Over the years, the United States has experienced immense success in the field of thoroughbred racing. A few aspects of equestrianism that it is highly commended for are breeding, exporting and record holding (horses and races). Some, of the country’s best thoroughbreds are exported to Japan and several other nations. The United States also has had immense success with the betting and purse money involved in the sport.

Recent developments in quarter horse racing

Quarter horse racing gained immense momentum when the American Horse Association was established fifty years ago. Due to the organization’s efforts, the country has registered and preserved a large number of quarter horses. Presently, quarter equestrianism in the country is conducted along the lines of the strict standards set forth by the organization.

The organization has set rules on the type of quarter horses that qualify for racing. One such rule mandates that only American quarter horses with white areas on their face and legs (below the knee) will be allowed to race.

Recent developments in endurance horse riding

Since 1972, endurance riding in America is officially sanctioned by the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) – the national body that governs this form of equestrianism in North America. Currently, the body sanctions rides that cover either 50 or 100 miles. In an effort to help initiate new riders into endurance riding, the AERC offers them a program called Limited Distance.

Important Horse Races in the US

One of the most important horse racing events in a year, in the United States is the Kentucky Derby Race. The race is run by thoroughbred horses that are three years old. The one and a quarter mile race is run at Churchill Downs by geldings and colts that carry 121 and 126 pounds respectively. The other two Triple Crown races, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, too race thoroughbreds that are three years old.

Triple Crown also has racing events for Pacers and Trotters (harness racing). They also have an Arabian Triple Crown which consists of three races – Texas Six Shooter Stakes, Wind Derby and Bob Magness Derby. Arabian and Thoroughbred fillies have a dedicated Triple series each, the Triple Tiara. The Triple Tiara for Thoroughbred fillies comprises of the Acorn Stakes, Coaching Club American Oaks and Alabama Stakes. Arabian fillies’ Triple Tiara includes Texas Yellow Rose Stakes, Daughters of the Desert oaks, and Cre Run Oaks.

Of late, the Breeder’s Cup races have been challenging the Triple Crown races in terms of being the best race for three-year olds. Held at different tracks each year, the Breeder’s Cup has a crucial role to play in the selection of other American annual champions. A corresponding event is held yearly for Standarbreds, called the Breeder’s Crown.

Betting on horse racing in America is regulated and sanctioned by the state in which the racetrack is situated. One form of betting that is widespread in the United States is Simulcast betting. Typically, this is carried out sans oversight, such that the companies in it carry out fair pari-mutuel betting. When the bet money is removed from the money pool, it is always distributed according to the state law. Generally, 17% of the money is retained by the house from each of three pools – win, place and show. Close to 83% of the money is distributed amongst winners.