Horse Racing: The Basic Facts


Seabiscuit takes to the track

Horse Racing:

Horse racing is one of the most ancient of all sports. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in Ancient Greece, Babylon, Syria, and Egypt.It also plays an important part of myth and legend, such as the contest between the steeds of the god Odin and the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology.

There are many different types of horse racing, including:

Flat racing, where horses gallop directly between two points around a straight or oval track. Flat racing is the most common form of racing seen worldwide. In the U. S. flat racing tracks are typically oval in shape and are generally level.

Jump racing, or Jumps racing, also known as Steeplechasing or, in the UK and Ireland, National Hunt racing, where horses race over obstacles.

Harness racing, where horses trot or pace while pulling a driver in a sulky.

Endurance racing, where horses travel across country over extreme distances, generally ranging from 25 to 100 miles (40 to 161 km)

The Triple Crown:

The traditional high point of US horse racing is the Kentucky Derby, held on the first Saturday of May at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Kentucky Derby (held the first Saturday in May) ; the Preakness Stakes (held two weeks later at Pimlico in Baltimore) and the Belmont Stakes, held three weeks after the Preakness at Belmont Park on Long Island, form “The Triple Crown” of Thoroughbred Racing for three-year-olds. They are all held early in the year, throughout May and the beginning of June.

Betting, Wagering & Winnings at the Derby

Place Your Bets

With a race schedule in one hand and pencil in the other, gamblers (new and seasoned) fill their tickets with hopes of joining the victorious in the Winner’s Circle. As the horses dash over the finish line, the announcer’s play by play accounting echoes through the roaring crowd, and hopefuls dash to the betting booths to predict who will bring home the purse!

How Much Can I Win Betting on Horses?

When you win, you will receive back the money you bet, multiplied by the odds of your bet winning.

Famous Horses:

Famous Triple Crown winners include horses such as War Admiral (whom little Seabiscuit beat once!) Secretariat, and Seattle Slew.


Thoroughbred horse racing in the United States has its own Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. The Hall of Fame honors remarkable horses, jockeys, owners, and trainers.


Did you know . . .there are just three founding sires that all Thoroughbreds can trace back to in the male line: the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerly Turk, named after their respective owners Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin, and Captain Robert Byerly. They were taken to England, where they were mated with mares from English and imported bloodlines. The resultant foals were the first generation of Thoroughbreds, and all modern Thoroughbreds trace back to them.

The most famous horse from Canada is generally considered to be Northern Dancer, who after winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Queen’s Plate in 1964 went on to become the most successful Thoroughbred sire of the twentieth century; his two-minute-flat Derby was the fastest on record until Secretariat in 1973.

How big is a Thoroughbred?

Thoroughbreds range in height, which is measured in hands (a hand being four inches). Some are as small as 15 hands while others are over 17. Thoroughbreds can travel medium distances at fast paces, requiring a balance between speed and endurance.



Silent Tom Smith with Seabiscuit

Santa Anita Park

Santa Anita Park is a thoroughbred racetrack in Arcadia, California, United States. It offers some of the prominent racing events in the United States during the winter and in spring. With its backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains, it is considered by many the world’s most beautiful race track. The track is home to numerous prestigious races


In its heyday, the track’s races attracted such stars Betty Grable, Lana Turner, Edgar Bergen, Jane Russell, Cary Grant, Esther Williams, and other stars. Bing Crosby, Joe E. Brown, Al Jolson, and Harry Warner were all stockholders.


Actress Betty Grable and her husband, the band leader Harry James, at the races

The Story of Seabiscuit

Seabiscuit film footage; race against War Admiral at Pimlico in ’38

Seabiscuit beat War Admiral at Pimlico in 1938. The ensuing two years, punctuated by injury and adversity to horse, rider and trainer, built to a crescendo. The odds were stacked against Seabiscuit and his jockey.

In 1940, with one race was left in the season, Seabiscuit and Kayak II both took the gate for the Santa Anita Handicap and its $121,000 prize. 78,000 paying spectators crammed the racetrack, most backing Seabiscuit. Pollard found his horse blocked almost from the start. Picking his way through the field, Seabiscuit briefly led. As they thundered down the back straight, Seabiscuit became trapped in third place, behind leader Whichcee and Wedding Call on the outside.

Trusting in his horse’s acceleration, Pollard steered between the leaders and burst into the lead, taking the firm ground just off the rail. As Seabiscuit showed his old surge, Wedding Call and Whichcee faltered, and Pollard drove his horse on, taking “The Hundred Grander” by a length and a half from the fast-closing Kayak II. Pandemonium engulfed the course. Neither horse and rider, nor trainer and owner, could get through the sea of well-wishers to the winner’s enclosure for some time.


Red Pollard and Seabiscuit



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