HomeCultureA Brief History Of Thoroughbred Horse Racing In The United States

A Brief History Of Thoroughbred Horse Racing In The United States

If there’s one activity in the American sports industry that perfectly embodies the thrill of competition and the glitz and glamour of the South, it is thoroughbred horse racing. Three races, in particular, are considered the pinnacle of this style of horse racing in the US. The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, known as The Triple Crown of racing, are the three must-see events in the horse racing calendar. As some of the top online betting platforms around have already posted their Belmont Stakes odds predictions, let’s take a look at the world of thoroughbred horse racing and the Triple Crown in the US.

An Intro into The World of Thoroughbred Horse Racing

Thoroughbred horse racing in the United States first began in 1868 after the publication of the American Stud Book, the official guide for the categorization of thoroughbred horses. This book was primarily used by breeders to categorize their horses and their origins horse. After its publication, racing in the United States was officially underway.

After the sport emerged, it became an activity enjoyed by people from all social and economic classes, from the wealthiest to the lowest classes. During the Civil War, the popularity of thoroughbred horse racing took a decline due to the economy and gambling activities. As a result, interest faded. But after the war, thoroughbred horse racing saw a rebirth and the popularity for horse racing grew as people took a more in-depth interest in the sport, investing in racehorses, construction of proper race tracks and jockey clubs. While New York was the first state to fully embrace the sport, it was when horse racing made its way down South that things took a definite turn for the best.

With the running of the Belmont Stakes for the first time in 1867, followed by the Preakness Stakes in 1873 and the Kentucky Derby in 1875, the horse racing world decided to mash the three races together to form what is known today as the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.

First Up In the Crown: The Kentucky Derby

Known by horse racing aficionados as “The Most Exciting Two Minutes in Sports” and “The Run for the Roses,” the annual Kentucky Derby, run at Churchill Downs Racetrack in Louisville, is widely considered the most important thoroughbred horse race in the world. This race stands as the first leg of the horse racing Triple Crown and is the most popular both in attendance and viewing. The race attracts people of all walks of life, from regular racing fans who wish to live the Derby experience at least once in their lifetime to Royalty like Queen Elizabeth II.

With the first-ever race conducted in 1875, this sporting spectacle has continued nonstop for 147 years, only having to be rescheduled once in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The race was moved from its usual May 2 date to May 5. It is understood that in order for a horse to be able to win the Triple Crown, a win at the Derby is an absolute must, with some of the best horses in history like Secretariat, American Pharaoh and Justify all winning here first before claiming Triple Crown glory. While every winning horse is rewarded with a blanket of red roses, the owners of the horse are awarded a cash price of around $3 million dollars.

After The Derby Comes The Preakness Stakes

Following the Kentucky Derby is the race known as “The Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown” and “The Race for the Black Eyed Susans”—the Preakness Stakes. The Preakness Stakes is usually run on the third Saturday of May, two weeks after the Kentucky Derby and three weeks before the Belmont Stakes. The race takes place at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland, attracting the Kentucky Derby winner, horses that ran the Derby and others who did not compete in Kentucky. It is the shortest of the three races at 1.88 km, while the Derby is 2 km and the Belmont Stakes is 2.4 km in total length.

While the Kentucky Derby pays the winner $3 million, The Preakness Stakes cash prize is considerably lower with the winner banking around $1 million. The winning horse is usually adorned with a blanket of black-eyed Susans, Maryland’s official state flower.

Last But Not Least: The Belmont Stakes

Following the Triple Crown is what’s referred to by many as “The Test of the Champion” race, the Belmont Stakes in Belmont Park, New York. It is widely referred to as “The Test of the Champion” because it is simply the longest race lengthwise of the three Triple Crowns. Any horse that can make it to this race after winning the two previous Triple Crown races stands a chance of becoming a Triple Crown winner, the most coveted title in horse racing.

The Belmont Stakes’ purse is around $1.5 million for the winners, with the winning horse usually being adorned with a blanket of white carnations. The last two horses to complete the Triple Crown sweep at Belmont were American Pharaoh in 2015, considered by many as the best racehorse to ever grace a track, as well as Justify in 2018. 

As you prepare for next year’s Derby and subsequent races, you can start perfecting your Mint Julep recipe now. It’s never too early to celebrate this showstopper of a Southern cocktail.

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