Horse racing in Sri Lanka has a 145 year history but the history of horse racing goes back way beyond to before the birth of Jesus Christ.
Horse racing has a long and distinguished history and has been practised in civilisations across the world since ancient times. Archaeological records indicate that horse racing occurred in Ancient Greece, Babylon, Syria, and Egypt.
Horse racing is an equestrian performance sport, involving two or more jockeys riding horses over a set distance for competition. It is one of the most ancient of all sports and its basic premise – to identify which of two or more horses is the fastest over a set course or distance. This basic of horse racing has remained unchanged since the earliest times.
Horse races vary widely in format. Often, countries have developed their own particular horse racing traditions. Variations include restricting races to particular breeds, running over obstacles, running over different distances, running on different track surfaces, even running on snow as in St. Moritz.
Flat racing is the most common form of racing, seen worldwide. Flat racing tracks are typically oval in shape and are generally level, although in Great Britain and Ireland there is much greater variation, including figure of eight tracks like Windsor, and tracks with often severe gradients and changes of camber. Track surfaces vary with turf most common worldwide, dirt more common in North America, and newly designed synthetic surfaces, such as Polytrack of Tapeta seen at some tracks worldwide.
The most prestigious flat races in the world, such as the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, Japan Cup, Epsom Derby, Kentucky Derby, The Melbourne Cup and Dubai World Cup are run over distances and are seen as tests of both speed and stamina to some extent.
There is a category of races called handicap races where each horse is assigned a different weight to carry based on its ability. Beside the weight they carry, a horse's performance can also be influenced by its position relative to the inside barrier (post position), its gender, its jockey, and its trainer.
There are three founding sires that almost all Thoroughbreds can trace back to: the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin, and the Byerly Turk, named after their respective owners, Thomas Darley, Lord Godolphin, and Captain Robert Byerly. All were taken to England where they were mated with mares. Thoroughbreds range in height, and are measured in hands (a hand being four inches). Some are as small as 15 hands while others are over 17 hands. Thoroughbreds can travel medium distances at fast paces, requiring a balance between speed and endurance.
So next time you are watching thoroughbred equine athletes straining every muscle to prove they are the best and fittest remember that this sport goes back to 648 BC.