Horse racing for a long time has been one of the most adored sports in England. The huge crowds and their deafening cheers finesse, and Jockeys’ skills and the general atmosphere at this state of the art racecourses, England and the rest of the world can’t seem to get enough of this sport. Horse racing in England has a deep history and culture, ranging from the Syrians, Romans, Greeks, and the Egyptians. Brought to the shores of England by the Romans, Horse racing in England is not only a sport to the English people but also a revenue earner with over 4 billion dollars generated yearly towards the British economy. England has the most attended horse racing events and venues, among them the famous Aintree, Ascot and Cheltenham (if you want to learn more about the famous Cheltenham course you can read British Racecourses’ guide here: https://www.britishracecourses.org/cheltenham/). Below, we will discuss the long and captivating History of British horse racing and some of the popular horse races in England.
When was Horse racing started in England? And who started it?
There have been conflicting reports on the exact time the sport started and by who, but almost all the Historians agree that it is the Romans who introduced the game in England in around 200AD. Although the British people had an already existing relationship with horses, they only used them for warfare and transport. It is believed that the Soldiers introduced horse racing during warfare as a simple competition. Still, there is also a record that it started when horses that were for sale took part in a horse racing competition so that the buyers can choose the best horses. By the 10th century, England was widely organized in England with recorded accounts of King Eadred of the Saxons holding lavish horse races. These led to the Horse racing sport to be the most loved sport in the monarch, and Royalty and horse gifts to Royalty is a common sight.
Royalty and their relation to Horse racing in England
Charles the 1st and Henry the 3rd are widely celebrated in England as being among the founding fathers of the horse racing sport in England. These kings are credited with setting the rules governing the competition, the breeding laws and regulations, and organizing some of the most prestigious horse races in England. So it is safe to say that horse racing rules and regulations in England would be quite different without their involvement. Through them, the sport gained great national importance not only in its culture but also in the heritage. The participation of the Royalty in Horse racing has been passed down to the current monarch as Queen Elizabeth the 2nd has bred horses that have won some of the most decorated horse races in England like Classic and the Royal Ascot races.
Newmarket is considered by many as the home of horse racing in England. Found by King James the 1st, Newmarket was turned into a horse racing hub is around 1605. Queen Anne is also credited and celebrated in discovering Ascot, and she is still commemorated today at the Royal ascot with the first race, the Queen Anne stakes being raced in her honor.
In around 1654, the horse racing had a dark moment when Cromwell Oliver banned the sport among others like gambling and wrestling as he termed them sinful. This was reversed immediately when Charles the 2nd ascended on the throne and consequently added the Newmarket as a horse racecourse.
Notable horse races today in England
Founded in 1711 by Queen Anne, Royal Ascot is one of the most decorated and attended horse races in England. It is held every third week of June each year, and it is attended by the Royalty, including the Queen herself. It is also believed that over 300,000 people across England and out of England attend the sport during the Royal Ascot week. The Royal Ascot is usually screened live on Sky sports with both the flat and national hunt racing being showcased. The other notable horse races and events at Ascot include the Ascot champion’s day done in October, King George day in July, and Ascots September festival in September. It is worth mentioning that almost all these races have been canceled or postponed this year due to the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Featuring grade one races like Champion Hurdle, Queen mother champion chase, Stayers Hurdle and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, Cheltenham Festival is a four day festival with prize money only below the Grand national. During this festival, gambling is very rampant, and it is well known for its loud atmosphere (The Cheltenham roar). This is the noise and cheer done by the vast crowd to set the stage for the festival. Cheltenham racecourse was started way back at the Market Harborough in 1860, and it was initially called the Grand National Hunt meeting. The Cheltenham is usually held in March of every year in England.
Other Notable Races
Other most notable horse races include the Aintree Grand National, Epsom downs derby meeting, Doncaster, and Chester festival.
The State of British Horse Racing
Horse racing in England is deeply rooted in its culture and national heritage with the monarch and other royalties like the Prince of Wales taking the lead. Most of the horse races in England have been canceled or postponed this year due to the worldwide spread of the corona virus pandemic. We are all looking forward to the return of Horse races in England with the Ascots champion day set to be done in October.