Racing and Racehorse legends

Horse racing has been popular for centuries and it’s now the second biggest spectator sport in UK, with several exceptional horses capturing the hearts of the nation and becoming household names.


by Victor Cherubim

( April 22, 2017, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) April 2017 has seen more twists and turns in politics, than a fast paced mystery novel. We’ve had the snap election call in Britain, the French Presidential race of 11 runners and riders, the North Korean strangely failed missile launch, among others. What of the twists and turns at the Grand National at Aintree Liverpool, on 8 April as “One for Arthur” the 14/1 winner served up the type of story that makes 800 million people around the world want to watch this iconic steeplechase.

History has been written about the legendary runners and riders who have triumphed in the thrilling combination of “human endeavour and equine fortitude.” First run in 1839 the Aintree steeplechase is over 4 miles 514 yards with horses jumping 30 fences over two laps with a prize fund of £1 million. I am aware punters everywhere, including Sri Lanka are glued to their TV, or at bookies to watch this iconic race.

Horse racing has been popular for centuries and it’s now the second biggest spectator sport in UK, with several exceptional horses capturing the hearts of the nation and becoming household names.

The widespread popularity of the sport today shows no signs of diminishing. Known as “The Sport of Kings,” the steeplechase derives from the original practice in Ireland where sporting gentry raced over a designated distance from one church steeple to another, jumping over any obstacle in the way. Later it was held over fields, brooks and hedges. All this was prior to race tracks organised jump racing.

The English Classics are the prestigious five of the oldest and most important English horse races. They are the Derby, Oaks, One Thousand Guineas, Saint Leger and the Two Thousand Guineas. The Derby is run at Epsom Downs. Surrey. It is a flat horse race open to three year old thoroughbreds, colts and fillies. It is run over a distance of 1 mile 4 furlongs and 10 yards, on the first Saturday of June each year.

Horses for courses

British racecourses have hosted the talents of countless champion horses and riders. They have delighted spectators and television viewers over years.

Rain or shine, every racing day every year, a multitude of ladies and gents head toward one or more race course for a day full of glamour and fashion, music and thundering hooves, with laughter even at the loss of their bets. It is a social gathering more than racing. It is who and what you see besides horses and jockeys that matters.

Champion Race Horses and Champion Jockeys

There have been many champion racehorses in Britain. Among them are Frankel, Red Rum, Shegar, Kauto Star, Desert Orchid, Brigadier Gerard, Arkle and Estimate, to name a few.

Among the well known Champion Jockeys are Fred Archer, who won 21 Championship Classics and was Champion Jockey for 13 consecutive years, followed by Sir Gordon Richards, Lester Piggott and Jump Jockey A P McCoy with 4348 jump winners and 20 Champion Jockey titles to his credit. It would be wrong to confine this only to horses and jockeys. There have been the legendary trainers, many from Ireland, who have left a indelible mark in horse racing.

Racing enthusiasts maintain that a jockey accounts for 10 percent of a horse’s performance on any given day. As the saying goes, “you can’t do much with a lousy horse, but a good jockey can help a great horse win”.

It is “horses for courses,” as some horses prefer to hang back and break out at the last minute, while others like to be out front the whole time. Breeding, pedigree and training have much to do with performance. The best jockeys know an animal’s strengths and weakness and when to use the whip?

Cruelty in horse racing

Whatever the result at racing, there is one thing they don’t tell you or want you to know? Many horses suffer as they are put through severe training and the spectacle of racing. 11 horses have died at the Grand National since 2011. Seven have died at Cheltenham, both jump races.

Imagine for a moment, irrespective of the buoyancy of the sport, the tangled limbs, fractured bones and broken spines. Horses are animals, but many times they are treated with care and concern because they are a luxury, at other times as commodities, not as “sensitive beings.”

Image for a moment, horses are drugged to mask their pain, horses are retired to slaughter houses, and horses are made to race when they are too young.

Making horses risk their lives on race courses for man’s whim and fancy is wrong. Worst of all is whipping them until they reach the winning post is cruel.

All this is called the “Best of Sport”. It is also about “money”. But there is a quiet sentiment growing around the lovers of this Sport in England that cruelty is not to be tolerated and strict rules are coming to be enforced not to turn horse racing into a “wild sport.”

Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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