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The history of Horse Racing
History indicates that nearly as long as humans and horses have been together, horse racing has been an enduring element of their relationship.
For thousands of years, horse racing has flourished as the sport of kings and of the common man. From farm fields and country lanes to ancient arenas and modern racetracks, horse racing is one of humankind's, and horsekind's, most ancient sports.

By the time humans began keeping written records, horse racing was an organized sport from Asia to the Mediterranean. Chariot and mounted horse racing were loved by the Egyptians and were events in the Greek Olympics by 638 BC. The sport was a public obsession in the Roman Empire. Horse racing is still very popular throughout the world even though most humans no longer depend on horses for power, transportation or waging war. Through the millennia humans have come to love and respect the horse's beauty, speed, power, stamina, grace and loyalty.

The origins of modern racing lie in the 12th century when swift Arabian horses were bred with sturdy European stock, producing horses with speed and endurance never seen before.

Horse racing and wagering became a popular diversion of European nobility. During the 1700's, racecourses became common in England. To control the sport, the Jockey Club was formed in 1750, which subsequently established standards, rules and regulations. Meanwhile breeders endeavored to produce even faster animals.

The British settlers brought horses and horse racing with them to North America in the 1600's. The first racetrack was cleared on Long Island in 1665. Horses and buggies squared off in impromptu races along city streets and country roads. Many towns and cities in the United States have a 'Race Street' where horses with riders or in harness pulling carts would compete to the delight of cheering, and oft times wagering onlookers. Even George Washington rode and wagered on racehorses.

Two main types of modern horse racing evolved from these early pursuits. Thoroughbred racing is a horse mounted by a rider or "jockey" that races over a flat track at distances from three-quarters of a mile to two miles. Standardbred or "harness" racing is a horse that pulls a two-wheeled bike or "sulky" with a driver over a one-mile course. The thoroughbred runs its course while the standardbred is either a "trotter" or a "pacer" and is not permitted to gallop or run. The thoroughbred can reach speeds around 40 miles per hour, whereas a standardbred can trot or pace around 30 miles per hour. Both the thoroughbred and standardbred breeds have bloodlines that can be traced to their original sires and dams (fathers and mothers).

Today, in the U.S., there are 90 thoroughbred racetracks and 29 standardbred racetracks in 33 States. Pennsylvania has two thoroughbred racetracks, Penn National Race Course near Harrisburg, and Philadelphia Park Racetrack near Philadelphia. Pennsylvania also boasts two standardbred racetracks, The Meadows near Pittsburgh and The Downs at Pocono near Wilkes-Barre. Together, the four Pennsylvania racetracks carry on the tradition and excitement of live horse racing in the Commonwealth

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