When it comes to speed and endurance, animal racing, and more specifically equine racing, is often beyond us. With their own unique movement mechanism, horses fascinate the human public. Many animal races of all kinds are organised all over the world: from camel races, to greyhound races, and even…. crab races. They can be crazy, amusing or more serious, and are a real craze. In fact, we’ve come up with a top 5 list of animal races.
Here, of course, we’ll focus on horse racing.
For the record, the first races date back to ancient times and were one of the first equestrian events to develop, particularly in Greece. At the time, races were part of the Olympic Games and took place in arenas, which included several events such as chariot racing and the race around the stake.
At the time, racing was mainly a form of entertainment, but today it has become a real business in which horse sales and betting are booming.
A little vocabulary
Because we know that it is not always easy to understand the specific terms, we give you some tips to be able to decipher all the conversations during your next day at the racecourse:
- Allowance: a sum of money paid (as a reward) to the 5 winners of a race
- A ‘claiming’ race: this is a type of race where the horses are sold by auction (to the highest bidder). It is often an opportunity for owners to show, test and sell their novice horses.
- Canter: the galloping pace with which the horse goes into the starting boxes
- Crack: expression which characterises a very successful horse (or jockey)
- To enter: to enter a race (also applies to any other equestrian discipline)
- Maiden: a horse that has not yet won a race
- Penetrometer: an instrument used to measure the quality and practicability of the ground
- Steeple-chase: a type of race with different types of obstacles (hurdles, walls, rivers), with a minimum number of 8.
- Sulky: individual two-wheeled cart, pulled by the horse in trotting races.
- The sulky / Source: pixabay
We explain some of the events
- In the world of racing, there are several events: trotting races, gallop races and obstacle races.
- In trotting races, a distinction is made between harnessed and mounted races.
- In harness trotting, the jockey sits on a sulky pulled by the horse. The aim is to reach the finish line at the fastest possible trot without galloping.
In mounted trotting races, the jockey sits on the horse, the principle remaining the same as in harness racing: to cross the finish line in the fastest possible trot, without going back into a canter, on pain of disqualification. Unlike harnessed trotting, mounted trotting gives the jockey more visibility and better control of the pace.
For both types of races, two types of start can be given: the so-called “flying start” and the autostart.
In the flying start, the horses enter in single file and are placed behind the rope in a distinct order. The signal sounds when the last competitor enters the track, marking the start of the race. However, false starts are common, as horses often cross the start line prematurely.
The autostart divides the competitors into two lines behind the two wings of a car travelling at reduced speed in front of them. The moment the car accelerates, the start is given.
For the obstacle races, a distinction is made between three events: the hurdle race, consisting (as the name suggests) of hurdles, and the cross country.
French jockeys who made racing history
At the time, jockeys did not have the same status as today. Once called ‘auriges’, they were only seen as slaves, the best of whom could even be sold on a dedicated market. The colours of the outfits were a reminder of their social class: for example, jockeys dressed in blue belonged to aristocrats.
Today, it is a profession in its own right, with strict physical and technical criteria and therefore very selective: in addition to having to be in excellent physical condition, they must not exceed a predefined weight and height depending on the race: around 50kg for a flat race, and 60kg for an obstacle race, for less than 1m55!
Before each race, the jockey undergoes a strict control, called a weigh-in (verification of height and weight), under the eyes of the race steward.
The colours of the outfits are chosen by the owners, to enable them to recognise their jockey, who is wearing a hat and a cap. They must be declared before the race to the Société d’Encouragement des chevaux.