British Races

Sport of Kings





Horse racing is an equestrian sport, involving one or more jockeys riding horses over a set distance for competition.

Nowadays, thoroughbred racing was, and is, popular with the aristocrats and royalty of British society, earning it the title “Sport of Kings”.





Horse racing in Great Britain is predominantly thoroughbred flat and jumps racing.

It was in Great Britain that many of the sport’s rules and regulations were established then introduced to the rest of the racing world.

This article is mainly focused on the history of Thoroughbred horse racing on the flat without jumps.





200 AD

The first races to take place in Britain were organised by soldiers of the Roman Empire in Yorkshire around that time, as a belief.


996-10-24, Hugh Capet the first King of the Franks of the House of Capet, died.

The earliest written mention of ‘running-horses’ is a record of Hugh, from the French House of Capet, gifting some as a present to King Athelstan of England.



During the reign of Henry II, William Fitzstephen wrote of race meeting which took place at a horse fair held at Smithfield in the north-west part of London, describing the horses as being ‘strong and fleet’.



British horse racing was also related to Quintain, an exercise to practice for jousting and lance games in the medieval ages.



A trophy was first presented at Chester during a horse fair, when the winner of a race received a small flower-decorated wooden ball.



The oldest horse race still in existence, the Kiplingcotes Derby was first run in Yorkshire.



The Carlisle Bell is a historic British flat horse race, first contested and still run today.

One of the bells is inscribed “The sweftes horse thes bel tak” (“The swiftest horse takes this bell”).

It is run at Carlisle Racecourse over a distance of 1 mile and it is scheduled to take place each year in June alongside another historic race the Cumberland Plate.



1664-10-01, Charles II instituted the Newmarket Town Plate, writing the rules himself:

Articles ordered by His Majestie to be observed by all persons that put in horses to ride for the Plate, the new round heat at Newmarket set out on the first day of October, 1664, in the 16th year of our Sovereign Lord King Charles II, which Plate is to be rid for yearly, the second Thursday in October for ever

King Charles II, Rules of the Newmarket Town Plate



1727-08-22 Oxford meeting, the earliest discoverable record was about a purse of 60 guineas offered ‘for horses which had never won a King’s Plate, weight 12 stone.’

The race was won by Lord Essex’s ch.h. SMILING BALL, who was first in both heats.

At a subsequent meeting, the same horse won by walking over for a 50-guinea plate offered on similar conditions.



Oxford meeting was extended to four days, but the record of the last day’s sport only has been preserved:

the race was a plate of 80 guineas for six-year-old horses, to carry 10 stone.

This 80-guinea plate or purse was for a long period the most valuable stake at the meeting; it is variously described as the ‘Ladies’ Plate’ or ‘Ladies’ Purse,’ and it was the exception for the race not to fill.



The Bristish Jockey Club was established and codified the Rules of Racing.

One of its members, Admiral Rous laid the foundations of the handicapping system, including the weight-for-age scale.


1762-10-04 Nineteen members of England’s Jockey Club announced an agreement at Newmarket to register their racing colors for purposes of distinguishing runners among a field of horses.


1764-04-01 — 1789-02-26

ECLIPSE won 18 races, including 11 King’s Plates and 8 walkovers all with full records of dates and courses.

1769-05-03, ECLIPSE started racing and won at the age of five in Epsom.

1770-10-04, ECLIPSE won his last King’s Plate in Newmarket.



1779-05-14 Friday, the inaugural Epsom Oaks horse race was run from Barrow Hedges, north of Lord Derby’s country house in Woodmansterne, The Oaks and through Oaks Park before heading west to approximately the site of the current Epsom Downs Racecourse.



1780-05-04 Thursday, the inaugural running of the Derby was held, won by Sir Charles Bunbury’s horse DIOMED.





Thereafter, the model of British racing has been popular through out the world due to its systematic efficiency and gambling elements.

Britain is also home to some of the world’s iconic racecourses including Newmarket, Ascot and Cheltenham.

Many of the world’s iconic races including the Epsom Derby, Grand National and Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The UK has also produced some of the greatest jockeys, including Sir Gordon Richards and Lester Piggott, Pat Eddery, Joe Mercer, etc.





However, even Governor Henry May had endeavoured to ascertain something of the pedigree and form on the English Turf of the English horses that ran in Hong Kong, but without much success.





China Races – 《RacingMemories.HK》



Acknowledgment to Mr Lacuda Mengnah for relevant data.





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