Horse racing is an equestrian sport that has been practiced over the centuries; the chariot races of Roman times are an early example, as is the contest of the steeds of the god Odin and the giant Hrungnir in Norse mythology. It is often inextricably associated with gambling. The common nickname for Thoroughbred horse racing is The Sport of Kings.
One of the principal forms of horse racing, which is popular in many parts of the world, is Thoroughbred racing. Harness racing is also popular in the eastern United States and more popular than Thoroughbred racing in Canada and parts of Europe. Quarter horse racing is also popular in the western United States and Florida. Racing with purebred Arabian horses exists in several states in the United States, as well as in most of Europe and the Middle East.
The breeding, training and racing of horses in many countries is now a significant economic activity as, to a greater extent, is the gambling industry which is largely supported by it. Exceptional horses can win millions of dollars and might make millions more by providing stud services, such as horse breeding.
 North America
Horse racing in the United States and on the North American continent dates back to the establishment of another course named Newmarket -- on the Salisbury Plains section of what is now known as the Hempstead Plains of Long Island, New York in 1665. This first racing meet in North America was supervised by New York's colonial governor, Richard Nicolls. The area is now occupied by the present Nassau County, New York region of Greater Westbury and East Garden City. The South Westbury section is also (appropriately) known as Salisbury.
Major horse racetracks in the US were built at Saratoga Springs, New York in 1863 and at Churchill Downs, Louisville, Kentucky, opened in 1875.
1905 saw the opening of Belmont Park in Elmont, New York (just outside New York City - on part of the western edge of the Hempstead Plains. Its mile and a half main track is the largest dirt thoroughbred race course in the world, and it has the sport's largest grandstand.
The latest major horse track opened in the US was the Meadowlands Racetrack opened in 1977 for thoroughbred racing. It is the home of the Meadowlands Cup.
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.
 Types of racing
The style of racing, the distances and the type of events varies very much by the country in which the race is occurring, and many countries offer different types of horse races.
In the United States, Thoroughbred flat races are run on surfaces of either dirt, polytrack or turf; other tracks offer Quarter Horse racing and Standardbred horse racing, or combinations of these three types of racing surfaces. Racing with other breeds, such as Arabian horse racing, is found on a limited basis. American Thoroughbred races are run at a wide variety of distances, most commonly from 5 to 12 furlongs (0.63 to 1.5 mi/1.0 to 2.4 km); with this in mind, breeders of Thoroughbred race horses attempt to breed horses that excel at a particular distance (see Dosage Index).
 Important races
The high point of US horse racing has traditionally been the Kentucky Derby which, together with the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, form the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing for three-year-olds. However, in recent years the Breeders' Cup races, held at the end of the year, have been challenging the Triple Crown events, held early in the year, as determiners of the three-year-old Champion. The Breeders' Cup is held at a different track every year; the most recent edition (2008) was held at Santa Anita. It also has an important effect on the selection of other annual Champions. The corresponding Standardbred event is the Breeders' Crown. There are also a Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Pacers and a Triple Crown of Harness Racing for Trotters.
American betting on horse racing is sanctioned and regulated by state governments, almost always through legalized parimutuel gambling.
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 20th century; his two-minute-flat Derby was the fastest on record until Secretariat in 1973. The only challenger to his title of greatest Canadian horse would be his son Nijinsky II, who is the last horse to win the English Triple Crown. Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto, home of the Queen's Plate, Canada's premier Thoroughbred stakes race, and the North America Cup, Canada's premier Standardbred stakes race, is the only race track in North America which stages Thoroughbred and Standardbred (harness) meetings on the same day. The Pattison Canadian International has the largest purse of any Canadian horse race.
 Quarter Horse racing
Quarter Horse racing is popular throughout the entire United States. Quarter Horses are faster than Thoroughbreds, but run shorter distances. While the average Thoroughbred race is roughly a mile, the average Quarter Horse race is about a quarter of a mile (hence the name of the breed). The classic distance of a Quarter Horse race is 440 yards (400 m), but races are run from anywhere between 100 and 1,000 yards (91 and 910 m).
American Quarter Horses are shorter and more muscular than their Thoroughbred cousins, and so are more suited to shorter, more explosive races. With the exception of the longer, 870-yard (800 m) distance contests, Quarter Horse races are run flat out, with the horses running at top speed for the duration. There is less jockeying for position, as turns are rare, and many races end with several contestants grouped together at the wire.
On the 25th June 1812 the Champ de Mars racecourse was inaugurated at The Mauritius Turf Club which was founded earlier in the same year. It was founded by Colonel Draper. The Mauritius Turf Club is situated on a prestigious avenue in Port Louis, the Capital City and is the 2nd oldest racecourse in the world and is the oldest racecourse in the southern hemisphere.
Undeniably, racing is one of the most popular sports in Mauritius now pulling regular crowds of 30,000 people and over to the only racecourse of the island.
A high level of professionalism has been attained in the organisation of races over the last decades preserving the unique electrifying ambiance prevailing on race days at the Champ de Mars.
Champ de Mars has 4 race events a year such as: Duchess of York Club, Barbe Cup, Maiden Cup and the Duke of York Club.
Most of the horses are imported from South Africa but some are also acquired from Australia, United Kingdom and France.
The island of Mauritius situated in the Indian Ocean not far from the very large island of Madagascar.
 South Africa
Horse racing is a popular sport in South Africa that can be traced back to 1797. The first recorded race club meeting took place five years later in 1802. The national horse racing body is known as the National Horseracing Authority and was founded in 1882. The premier event, which attracts 50 000 people to Durban, is the Durban July Handicap, which has been run since 1897 at Greyville Racecourse. It is the largest and most prestigious event on the continent, with betting running into the hundreds of million rand. However, the other notable major races are the Summer Cup, held at Turffontein Racecourse in Johannesburg, and The J & B Met, which is held at Kenilworth race track in Cape Town.
Racing in Australia has enjoyed great success with races such as the world famous Melbourne Cup, the so-called race that stops a nation, which has recently attracted many international entries. Australia's first country racing club was established at Wallabadah in 1852 and the Wallabadah Cup is still held on New Year's Day (the current racecourse was built in 1898).  In Australia, the most famous horse was Phar Lap, who raced from 1928- 1932 (though originally bred in New Zealand). Phar Lap carried 9st 12lb (62.5kg) to win the 1930 Melbourne Cup. In 2003-2005 the mare Makybe Diva became the only racehorse to ever win the Melbourne Cup three times, let alone in consecutive years. In harness racing, Paleface Adios became a household name during the 1970s, while Cardigan Bay, a pacing horse from New Zealand, enjoyed great success at the highest levels of American harness racing in the 1960s.
 New Zealand
Racing is a long-established sport in New Zealand, stretching back to colonial times.
The New Zealand racing industry is a major contributor to the New Zealand economy as well as local communities across New Zealand. Racing generates more than $1.4 billion in economic activity each year and creates the equivalent of 18,300 full-time jobs.
More than 40,000 people derive their livelihoods from the New Zealand racing industry.
In the past year, more than one million people attended race meetings across New Zealand spending in excess of $55 million on wagering, food, beverages, transport and accommodation.
There are 69 thoroughbred and 51 harness clubs licensed in New Zealand. Racecourses are situated in 59 locations throughout New Zealand.
The bloodstock industry is important to New Zealand, with the export sale of horses – mainly to Australia and Asia – generating more than $120 million a year.
A major source of funding for the racing industry is returns from betting on racing and sports, which is conducted by the New Zealand TAB, the retail arm of the New Zealand Racing Board.
Ireland has a rich history of horse racing; point to pointing originated there and even today, jump racing (National Hunt racing) is marginally more popular than racing on the flat. As a result, every year Irish horse racing fans travel in huge numbers to the highlight event of the National Hunt calendar, the Cheltenham Festival, and in recent years Irish owned or bred horses have dominated the event. Ireland has a thriving thoroughbred breeding industry, stimulated by favourable tax treatment. The world's largest thoroughbred stud, Coolmore Stud, is there. Notable Irish trainers include Dermot Weld, John Oxx and Aidan O'Brien. Notable jockeys include Kieren Fallon, Michael Kinane, Johnny Murtagh, Ruby Walsh and Tony McCoy. The multiple Gold Cup winner Best Mate also hails from Ireland, while the great Red Rum was bred there, before moving across the Irish Sea to be trained. Arkle, rated the greatest steeplechaser of all time, was bred and trained in Ireland and became a national hero through his exploits. The legendary racemare Dawn Run was another famous Irish champion. Vincent O'Brien who trained horses at Ballydoyle in Tipperary, was one of the most successful trainers of all time, in both National Hunt racing and on the flat. Champion racehorses trained by Vincent O'Brien on the flat include Nijinsky II, Sir Ivor, Ballymoss, Alleged, The Minstrel and El Gran Senor.
- See also: List of French flat horse races and Category:Horseracing in France
France has a mature horse racing industry. The race with the largest international following is the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe held at Longchamp Racecourse on the 1st Sunday in October. The Grand Prix de Paris is also held at Longchamp but is run in mid July. The other two French Classic Races are Prix du Jockey Club (the French Derby) and the Prix de Diane both held in June at Chantilly Racecourse.
The Palio di Siena (known locally as Il Palio), the most famous palio in Italy, is a horse race held twice each year on July 2 and August 16 in Siena, in which the horse and rider represent one of the seventeen Contrade, or city wards. A magnificent pageant precedes the race, which attracts visitors and spectators from around the world.
See also: List of horse races in Italy
 Great Britain
In Great Britain, there are races which involve obstacles (either hurdles or fences) called National Hunt racing and those which are unobstructed races over a given distance (flat racing). GB has provided many of the sport's greatest ever jockeys, most notably Sir Gordon Richards. In GB there are rules that stop the jockey using the whip too much, such as: they are not allowed to raise their whip over their shoulder. This stops them hitting the horse too hard.
Races in GB are not referred to as Race 1, Race 2, etc., but by the starting time. For instance, the "1:35" or the "3:10". Each race may also have a name, which may include a sponsor's name, associated with it.
 Hong Kong
The British tradition of horse racing left its mark as one of the most important entertainment and gambling institutions in Hong Kong. Established as the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club in 1884, the non-profit organisation conducts nearly 700 races every season at the two race tracks in Happy Valley and Sha Tin. The sport annually draws millions of dollars of tax revenue. Off- track betting is available from overseas bookmakers.
In Malaysia, horse racing was introduced during the British colonial era and remained until today as gaming activities. There are 3 racing courses in Malaysia, namely Penang Turf Club, Perak Turf Club and Selangor Turf Club. The horse racing is legal form of gambling within the Turf Club and betting only available in turf club. Racing in Malaysia and Singapore are conducted and governed under the Rules of the Malayan Racing Association. Horse racing gambling in Malaysia are operated and organized by Pan Malaysian Pools Sdn Bhd.
Horse racing was introduced to Singapore by the British during the colonial era and remained one of the legal forms of gambling after independence. It remains a highly popular form of entertainment with the local Singaporean community till this date. Races are typically held on Saturdays and Sundays at the Singapore Turf Club in Kranji. Horse racing has also left its mark in the naming of roads in Singapore such as Race Course Road in Little India where horse racing was first held in Singapore and Turf Club Road in Bukit Timah where Singapore Turf Club used to be before moving to its current location in 1999.
In India, Bangalore Turf Club conducts races, which are famous along with Pune and Kolkotta. Vijay Mallya and MAM Ramaswamy, both Members of Parliament are famous horse owners, who have won record number of championships, both incidentally are industrialists
Recently, Bangalore came into news as the Government is mulling over to ban betting, which would eventually make horse racing economically unviable
In India, its not only Bangalore Turf Club which conducts races, also there are four more turf authorities who conduct racing viz. The Hyderabad Race Club,Hyderabad, The Royal Calcutta Turf Club, Kolkata, The Royal Western India Turf Club, Mumbai and the Madras Race Club, Chennai. Apart from these racing is also conducted in Delhi and Mysore.
Of all the Hyderabad Race Club's racing is very popular amongst the locals here and is very competitive and Hyderabad Race Club has many firsts to its credit to popularise the thoroughbred horse racing in India. In the year 2008, the first Saturday and Sunday is the Hyderabad Race Club's turn to host the Indian Turf Invitation Cup weekend racing carnival which is the most prestigious event of the racing calendar in India.
Japan conducts more than 21,000 horse races a year in one of three types: flat racing, jump racing (races over hurdles), and Ban'ei Racing (also called Draft Racing).
There are a total of thirty racetracks in Japan. Ten of these tracks are known as "central tracks", where most of Japan's top races are conducted. Races at these ten tracks are conducted by the Japan Racing Association (JRA), which operates under the oversight of the Japanese government. The remaining twenty tracks are operated by municipal racing authorities and run under the affiliation of the National Association of Racing (NAR). Two tracks, Sapporo Racecourse and Chukyo Racecourse, run separate meetings under either JRA or NAR jurisdiction.
The JRA purse structure is one of the richest in the world. As of 2007[update], a typical JRA maiden race for three year olds carries a purse of ¥9.55 million (about US$83,000), with ¥5 million (about US$43,000) paid to the winner. Purses for graded stakes races begin at around ¥75 million (about US$650,000).
Japan's top stakes races are run in the spring and autumn. The country's most prominent race is the Grade 1 Japan Cup, a 2400 m (about 1 1/2 mile) invitational grass race run every November at Tokyo Racecourse for a purse of ¥530 million (about US$4.6 million). Other noted stakes races include the February Stakes, Takamatsunomiya Kinen, Yasuda Kinen, Takarazuka Kinen, Arima Kinen, and the Tenno Sho races run in the spring and fall. The Satsuki Sho, Tokyo Yushun and Kikuka Sho comprise the Japanese Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing.
Japan's top jump race is the Nakayama Grand Jump, run every April at Nakayama Racecourse. Instead of running over a large course as is the case in other countries, the course for the 4250 m (about 2 5/8 mile) Nakayama Grand Jump follows a twisted path on the inside portion of Nakayama's racing ovals. The race carries a purse of ¥170 million (about US$1.4 million).
The top jockey in Japan is Yutaka Take, who is a multiple champion in his homeland and regularly rides Japanese horses in stakes races around the world. Yutaka Take was the regular jockey for Deep Impact, JRA's two time Horse of the Year (2005-06).
Mongolian horse racing takes place during Mongolia's Independence Day.
Horse races are held in Pakistan at three different clubs. In Lahore at Lahore Race Club, Rawalpindi at Chakri and in Karachi at Karachi Race Club.
 South Korea
Horse racing in South Korea traces back to May 1898, when a foreign language institute run by the government included a donkey race in its athletic rally. However, this type of racing was sponsored for entertainment purposes only. No betting was conducted. It was in 1920s that "Modern Horse Racing" involving a betting system made its debut. In 1922, the Chosun Racing Club, the nation's first-ever authorized horse racing club, was established to make horse racing more systematic and better organized. In 1923, the pari-mutuel betting system was officially adopted for the first time in Korea. The Sinseol-dong racecourse opened in 1928 and incorporated racing clubs were allowed to have their own racecourses.
Finally in 1933 a decree on horse racing was promulgated. Under the decree, only incorporated racing clubs were entitled to conduct horse racing. The Chosun Horse Racing Authority was also established in 1933 to coordinate and control incorporated racing clubs across the nation and ensure consistency in their administration.
In 1945, the Chosun Horse Affairs Authority was renamed to the Korea Racing Authority, and efforts were made to restore the national identity in horse racing. However, the Korean War which broke in 1950 resulted in great turmoil for Korean society, thus undermining the development of horse racing. Worse yet, during the three-year war, racecourses were requisitioned for military training and horse racing came to an abrupt halt. To keep the tradition of horse racing alive, the Korea Racing Authority worked out a plan to reestablish the racecourse at Ttuksom in Seoul. The construction, which began during the war, was completed in May 1954. With its dedication, horse racing resumed, and the newly constructed Ttksom racecourse served as the hub of Korean horse racing until it was relocated to the modern racecourse in Gwacheon in 1989.
Pari-mutuel bets were tallied manually until 1984. The inefficient management of pari-mutuel betting system was a major stumbling block to broadening the fan base. To overcome this fundamental obstacle, the computerized pari-mutuel betting system was established in 1984, and at the same time, horse racing came to be televised in color, both on-&off-course. These two measures have played a decisive role in boosting attendance and turnover. For instance, in 1984, turnover and attendance increased at 67% and 58%, respectively, from the previous year.
To form a link in the chain of the program to make the most of the Olympic facilities, the government designated the KRA as the organization exclusively responsible for providing the Olympic Equestrian Park. Accordingly, the KRA secured 280 acres (1.1 km2) of the land in Gwacheon area on the southern outskirts of Seoul, and began its construction in 1984 till 1988. After the Olympics, the Park was converted into racing facilities named Seoul Racecourse and the first race was held on September 1, 1989. With the opening of the Seoul Racecourse, the 36-year-long era of the Ttuksom Racecourse came to an end and the nation's horse racing continued to make great strides.
As part of the efforts to preserve the ponies native to Jeju Island, which has been designated as Natural Monument No. 347, the KRA began the construction of the 180-acre (0.7 km2) Jeju Racecourse at the foot of Mt. Halla in October 1987. Three years later in October 1990, the Racecourse opened for pony racing.
As an effort to raise racing quality and promote horseracing nationwide, the KRA started to construct the new thoroughbred racecourse in Busan, the second largest city in South Korea. The racecourse opened in September 2005. The stellar growth of Korean racing and KRA's internationalization efforts have drawn the international attention since the beginning of the 2000s. Led by this, in October 2002, the Asian Racing Federation decided to designate South Korea as the host of the 30th Asian Racing Conference in May 2005. Also, in June 2004, the International Cataloguing Standards Committee included Korea as one of the Part III countries, and decided to add seven South Korean Grade Races to the Blue Book list starting from 2005.
 United Arab Emirates
The big race in the UAE is the Dubai World Cup, a race with a purse of six million dollars, making it the largest purse in the world. Within around two and a half years time Dubai will have a horse racing city named Meydan.
There is no parimutuel betting in the UAE.
While the attention of horse racing fans and the media is focused almost exclusively on the horse's performance on the racetrack, or for male horses possibly its success as a sire, little publicity is given to brood mares. Such is the case of La Troienne, one of the most important mares of the 20th century to whom many of the greatest thoroughbred champions, and dams of champions, can be traced.
In most flat horse races, including steeplechases, the pedigree of the horse is one of the things that allow it to race: the horse must have a sire (father) and a dam (mother) who are purebred individuals of whatever breed is racing. For example, in a normal harness race, the horses sire and dam must both be pure Standardbreds.
A stallion who has won many races will usually be put up to stud when he is retired. This means that the owner of a mare can pay to breed his mare to that stallion. The more successful a stallion has been, the more expensive it is to breed the mare. An owner who is serious about racing will pay a great deal for a breeding to a successful stallion. Because stallions can breed many mares per season but a broodmare can only have one foal, an owner who has had a successful colt and keeps him as a breeding stud will probably make more money than an owner with a successful filly. However, the advent of embryo transfer technology--by means of which broodmares may have more than one offspring per season--might bring changes to the traditions of breeding.
Pedigrees of stallions can be seen at Weatherbys Stallion Book and pedigrees of recent Stakes race winners can be found on sites such as the-racehorse.com. Thoroughbred pedigree database: Pedigree Query
At many horse races, there is a gambling station, where gamblers can stake money on a horse. (Gambling on horses is prohibited at some tracks; the nationally renowned Colonial Cup Steeplechase in Camden, South Carolina, is known as one of the races which betting is illegal citing a 1951 law.) Where gambling is allowed, most tracks offer Parimutuel betting where gamblers' money is pooled and shared proportionally among the winners once a deduction is made from the pool. In some countries, such as UK, Ireland and Australia, an alternative and more popular facility is provided by Bookmakers who effectively make a market in odds. This allows the gambler to 'lock in' odds on a horse at a particular time (known as 'taking the price' in the UK). Parimutuel gambling on races also provides not only purse money to participants but considerable tax revenue, with over $100 billion wagered annually in 53 countries.
 Types of bets
The three most common ways to bet money are: bet to win, bet to place, and bet to show. Bet to win means that you stake money on the horse, and if it comes in first place, the bet is a winner. In bet to place, you are betting on your horse to finish either first or second and 'show' is first, second or third. Since it is much easier to select a horse to finish first, second or third than it is to select a horse just for first, the 'show' payoffs will be much lower on average than win payoffs. Betting 'show' is really playing it safe while win betting is a bit more risky, yet the rewards are better.
In Europe, betting to show is less commonplace since the number of "payout places" varies depending on the size of the field that takes part in the race. For example, in a race with seven or less runners in the UK, only the first two finishers would be considered winning bets with most bookmakers. Three places are paid for eight or more runners, whilst a handicap race with 16 runners or more will see the first four places being classed as "placed". Betting to place takes on a different meaning in Europe for this reason. In the US a place bet would only pay out if the horse in question finished first or second, whilst in the UK, a place bet would be deemed a winner based on the aforementioned criteria.
The term "Each-Way" bet is used across the globe, but again has a different meaning depending on your location. An each-way (or E/W) bet sees your total bet being split in two, with half being placed on the win, and half on the place. US bettors would only see a payout for a first or second place finish with this type of bet, whilst European and British bettors (or "punters") would receive a payout if the horse either wins, or is placed based on the place criteria as stated above. Most UK bookmakers cut the odds considerably for an each-way bet, offering the full odds if the horse wins but only a third, a quarter or a fifth of the odds if only the place section of the bet is successful. In the UK some bookmakers will offer a sixth of the odds for a place on the Grand National and increase the number of places available to achieve this to finishing in the first five. This additional concession is offered because of the large number of runners in the race (maximum 40). Occasionally other handicap races with large fields (numbers of runners) receive the same treatment from various bookmakers.
 Betting Exchanges
In addition to traditional betting with a bookmaker, punters are able to both back and lay money on an online betting exchange. Punters who lay the odds are in effect acting as a bookmaker. The odds of a horse are set by the market conditions of the betting exchange which is dictated to by the activity of the members.
Organized groups dedicated to protecting animals, such as the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, target some horse sports with claims of animal cruelty. Horse racing and rodeo are most commonly targeted, due both to their high visibility and to the level of stress and potential physical dangers to the equines involved. Criticism of horse racing and its practices runs a wide gamut, however; while some individuals consider even fairly drastic discipline of horses non-abusive, others consider abuse to be anything done against the will of the animal in question. Some consider poor living conditions abusive, while others consider riding itself abusive.
Some behaviors and activities are widely criticized as abusive by people within the horse industry, even if not illegal as a matter of public law, while others are so widely condemned that they have been outlawed at the federal level and violations can incur criminal penalties.
There are many dangers in horse racing for both horse and jockey: a horse can stumble and fall, or fall when jumping an obstacle, exposing both jockey and horse to the danger of being trampled and injured.
Anna Waller, a member of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of North Carolina, co-authored a four-year long study of jockey injuries and stated to the New York Times that "For every 1,000 jockeys you have riding, over 600 will have medically treated injuries." She added that almost 20% of these were serious head or neck injuries. The study reported 6,545 injuries during the years 1993-1996. More than 100 jockeys were killed in the US between 1950-1987.
Horses also face dangers in racing. 1.5 horses die out of every 1000 starts in the US. The U.S. Jockey Club in New York estimates that about 600 horses died at racetracks in 2006. The Jockey Club in Honk Kong reported a far lower figure of .58 horses per 1000 starts. There is speculation that drugs used in horse racing in the US which are banned elsewhere are responsible for the higher death rate in the US.
 See also