While horse racing enjoys popularity the world over – and has for quite some time – the history of the sport in North America is particularly interesting. The first horse racing course in America was in what is now known as Hempstead Plains in Nassau County, New York. The course, Newmarket, opened its gates in 1665, and in doing so, it helped kick off the rich tradition of the horse racing sport in America. Due to the success of Newmarket, many other racing tracks were opened, including the Belmont track in New York.
Belmont is the largest dirt course in all thoroughbred racing. It opened in May 1905, and continues to be one of the most popular venues for horse racing, and is noted as “the big time” for many racers. It is owned and operated by the New York Racing Association, which also owns Saratoga and Aqueduct. The biggest race at Belmont is the immensely popular Belmont Stakes. A statue of the legendary horse, Secretariat, stands in the center of the track, as he set a world record for his 1973 race there amongst other achievements over the course of his career.
The three most important races in North American horse racing come together to form the “triple crown.” Including the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, and Preakness Stakes. Beyond that, many racing enthusiasts enjoy the Breeders’ Cup races. The former is held earlier in the year, and the latter, later. As such, different values are placed on the wins. While some prefer the classic triple crown to the new breed of the race that is the Breeders’ Cup, many like the new race and the way it is held at different tracks every year.
Interestingly enough, while gambling is generally frowned upon in the United States, horse race betting is regulated and sanctioned by individual states. As such, betting on horse races via legitimate channels is legal, whereas other types of sports bets aren’t legal.
There are different types of horse racing that are popular in the United States. One way to differentiate is the type of track – dirt, Polytrack, and grass are the most common surfaces, though some race types will incorporate more than one of these into the same track. Thoroughbred racing is the most common type of race – and the one most Americans are familiar with, though quarter horse racing and harness racing also enjoy their own popularity. Arabian horse racing is uncommon, but there are enthusiasts who enjoy that sort of racing.
Horse race tracks are all different lengths, depending on the type of race, the surface, and the style of racing/horses that will be participating. Interestingly enough, many horse breeders choose to raise their horses with specific types of races and courses in mind, choosing studs and fillies who have the proper genetic makeup to breed strong racehorses.
There are differences in the races and how the horses are bred for specific races. For example, thoroughbreds are bred to run longer distances, while quarter horses are generally faster. As such, the two have different builds. Thoroughbreds are taller and leaner than quarter horses, who are bred to be shorter and more muscular. A quarter horse race is generally held on a straight track and is much faster with a different type of competition than a thoroughbred race. A thoroughbred race is held on something more like a car race track, and it is easier for a specific horse and jockey to break out of the back for a clear winner than in quarter horse racing.
As you can see, there is a diverse and solid history of horse racing in the United States. Although horses are not as popular as they once were for things such as transportation, show, and sports horses are still incredibly popular and fascinating to Americans of all ages.