This Month in Suffolk – Newmarket August 1750
Oldest Recorded Horse Race
It is believed that the earliest recorded horse race took place on Newmarket Heath on 29 August 1750. The Earl of March and the Earl of Eglinton bet 1,000 guineas against Theobald Taaf that four horses could pull a four wheeled chaise carrying one person 19 miles in under an hour. The route started at the 6 mile house, went through the running gap and then took the horses four times round a ring of three miles before ending at the 5 mile house. The final time was 53 minutes and 27 seconds.
However, more of an established event would be The Kiplingcotes Derby which is believed to have been run near Market Weighton in East Yorkshire every March since 1519.
Was This Really a Race?
Now I am sure there was a race run in 1750 at Newmarket however whether this is the first recorded and whether this is actually a race – four horses pulling a chaise running against no others except the clock – is another matter, although it could be the first recorded in Newmarket!
1750 did see horse racing’s elite meeting at Newmarket to form the Jockey Club and to oversee and control English horse racing. The Jockey Club wrote a comprehensive set of rules for horse racing and sanctioned racecourses to conduct horse racing meetings under their rules and in 1814 5 races for three year olds were designated as “classics”: The 2000 Guineas, The Epsom Derby and The St Ledger all open to colts and fillies and which make up The Triple Crown, and the 1,000 Guineas and the Epsom Oaks open to fillies only.
The General Stud Book
The Jockey Club was also fundamental in regulating the breeding of race horses. James Weatherby, an accountant of the Jockey Club, was given the task to trace the pedigree and compile the family history of all race horses in England. His work resulted in the Introduction to the General Stud Book being published in 1791 and since 1793 Weatherby have recorded the pedigree of every foal born to race horses in the General Stud Book. Thoroughbred horses are so inbred that the pedigree of every horse can be traced back to one of three stallions, Byerley Turk (1680-1696), Darley Arabian (1700-1733) and the Godolphin Arabian (1724-1753), and these are known as the “Foundation sires”. From the early 1800s the only horses that could be called “Thoroughbreds” and allowed to race professionally were those listed in the General Stud Book.
Horse racing is one of the most ancient sports with the nomadic tribesmen of Central Asia racing horses since early domestication. Horse racing as a professional sport in the UK can be traced back to the 12th Century after the English knights returned from the Crusades with Arab horses.
The Jockey Club continues to regulate horse racing and point-to-pointing today, but the British Horseracing Board became the governing authority for horse racing in Great Britain in 1993 and The National Hunt Committee was established in 1866. You can read more here in Equine Worlds Horse Racing History