According to some research I’ve done on Google, horse racing started as a sport in the UK back in the 12th century. In those days, of course, races were run cross-country and were probably pretty rough affairs.
Charles II was very interested in horse racing and held races across open fields between two horses. The first race meeting was held in Newmarket, where many English racehorses are bred to this day.
In the early 18th century match races became less popular as bigger races were held and gambling became established. In 1711 Ascot was founded. Astonishing to think that many of the original sites of the great sport still thrive today.
The Jockey Club was formed in 1750 and instituted a set of rules for horse racing, and of course they still regulate the sport of Kings and point-to-pointing today.
The Jockey Club instigated plans to regulate the breeding of race horses and started the General Stud Book, first published in 1791. The General Stud Book has been run by Weatherby’s since 1793 and they have recorded the pedigree of every foal born to registered stock. Thus the development of the English Thoroughbred is very well documented.
In 1815 the Classics came into being as races for three-year-olds. They are: The Epsom Derby, The St. Leger, The 2,000 Guineas (the Triple Crown) and The Epsom Oaks and 1,000 Guineas, which are only open to fillies.