Throughout history, horses have been used to compete in races. In the ancient world, they were used in chariot races. They were also used in Bedouin endurance races in the Arabian desert. During the 19th century, they were used in the Civil War. In the 20th century, they were used in American Thoroughbred racing. In the 21st century, they are still used in racing.
There are four different classes of horse races. Each class has different rules and levels of competition. The goal of handicapping is to make all horses equally capable of winning. In a handicap race, each horse has a different rating that determines its weight. These ratings are based on the horse’s past performance. For instance, a race for two-year-old horses weighs less than an adult race. This has led to fewer races for horses over four years old.
The first documented horse race was held in France in 1651. It was an event where two noblemen wagered for the victory of a particular horse. The winner of the wager was named “Selima.” She was a bay mare with a white star on her forehead. She had reached her peak of racing prowess when she was seven. She also had a white splash on her left hind ankle.
In 1729, John Cheny published An Historical List of All Horse-Matches Run. In 1751, five-year-old horses carrying 140 pounds were admitted to the King’s Plates.
After the American Civil War, speed became a goal of racing. Heat racing for four-year-olds continued until the 1860s. Dash racing required a skillful rider and judgment. It was not until the mid-19th century that the number of heats was reduced to two miles. The original King’s Plates were standardized races. The winner of the race received a silver cup.
In the 19th century, a jockey’s weight was usually 140 pounds. This included riding tack and the weight of the horse. Many jockeys were young male slaves. This handicapping weight was used to compensate for the inexperience of riders.
Later, a jockey’s weight was reduced if they won a certain number of races. This was called the “play or pay” rule. In this era, the horse owners provided the purse. If an owner chose to drop out of a race, half the purse was forfeited. This resulted in many more gawkers at the colonial races.
The 19th century also saw the development of the horse. It was developed from Middle Eastern sires, which were imported to England to sire faster horses. They were then brought to Virginia to deliver foals. It was this innovation that eventually led to the Thoroughbred.
In the early 18th century, Maryland and Virginia had been engaged in a dispute over the Chesapeake Bay. Maryland’s horse owners believed that their races were superior to those in Virginia. In response, they circumvented the ban on breeding horses in Maryland and took pregnant mares to Virginia.
In the mid-19th century, Maryland’s Mount Airy estate became a racing center. The Annapolis Maryland Gazette reported the race and its order of finish. The result was a spirited rivalry between the two states.