Horse racing is one of the most popular sports in the UK, with thousands of us flocking to race meetings which are as much of a social gathering as a sporting event. People who never attend a meeting or bet on horses at other times of the year have a flutter on the Grand National or the Derby, and these are some of the most watched television sporting events in the year. Horse racing is a tightly regulated sport and there are quite a few unusual facts about the sports.
In the UK, there are strict regulations about how horses are named. The maximum number of characters, including spaces in a race horse’s name is 18, therefore race goers will often see horses named Numbersixvalverde at 17 characters rather than Number Six Valverde, which would be over the limit at 19. Horses are not allowed to be named after a person without their written consent, and it goes without saying that names which are considered vulgar or obscene are not allowed either. Duplication must also be avoided, to eliminate any possible confusion should two horses with the same name be entered at the same event. Many owners follow a pattern of naming and incorporate elements of the parent names into the name of the foal.
Speed and Distance
Racehorses are bred for speed, and the top speed ever recorded for a horse was a staggering 43.2 miles per hour, set by Big Racket. Horse racing has strict rules about the diet and medication which horses can be given to eliminate unscrupulous owners giving illegal equine performance supplements, so owners have to take great care over what their horses eat and drink. Given that the length of a horse race can be anything between half a mile and 2 miles, horses have to be in tip-top condition to compete. Owners use herbal or natural equine performance supplements to give their horse the best chance of winning.
Jump and Flat
The two main types of racing in the UK are flat racing and National Hunt racing, where the horses go over jumps. Some race courses in the UK stage both types of racing, whereas others hold one type of racing only. Racing takes place on every day of the week, with evening and weekend race meetings attracting larger crowds than some of the smaller week day meetings.
Football is still the king of sports in the UK, but horse racing comes in a close second, both in terms of revenue generated and spectator numbers. The Grand National sees as many as 10 million people tuning in to watch the race on TV, and 6 million people annually visit a racecourse to see the racing live. Many celebrities and famous faces from the world of sport such as Wayne Rooney and Sir Alex Ferguson have invested their earnings in race horses, and of course the sport is very closely associated with the Royal Family, especially the Queen and late Queen Mother.
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