RACING. Horse-races were customary in England in very early times. Fitz-Stephen mentions them in the reign of Henry II. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth, they appear to have been carried to such excess as to have injured the fortunes of the nobility. At that time, however, the matches were private, and gentlemen rode their own horses. In the reign of James I. public races were established. The horses were at that time prepared for running by the discipline of food, physic, airing, sweats, and clothing, which compose the present system. The weight, also, .which each horse was to carry, was rigidly adjusted. The usual weight was ten stone, and the riders were weighed before they started. The prize was generally a bell. About the latter end of the reign of Charles I. races were performed in Hyde Park. After the restoration, racing was much encouraged by Charles II. and a silver bowl or cup of the value of a hundred guineas, was allotted for a prize. Subsequent sovereigns have also encouraged racing. The sum of a hundred guineas is now given in lieu of the silver bowl. Fine and delicate horses, the natives of warm climates, excel in swiftness. The most perfect of these were originally found in Arabia; but their qualities may be improved in their descendants in a more fruitful country. The Arabians tried in England have never proved themselves equal in any respect, upon the course, to the English racers, descended from Arabian stock. The true test of thorough blood is not speed, but continuance. The speed and continuance of race horses is necessarily affected by the weight which they carry. It is said that, in running four miles, seven pounds make the difference of a distance, or two hundred and forty yards between horses of equal goodness. Weight is therefore regulated with scientific precision on the turf; and if the jockeys, or either of them, fall below the amount agreed upon, they are made to carry weights to make up the difference. The weights borne by race horses vary from the maximum twelve stone to a boy of the lightest weight.
The usual trial of speed, in English racing, is a single mile; of continuance or bottom, four miles. It has been asserted that Flying Childers ran a mile over Newmarket in the space of a minute. The time was really a few seconds over a minute. Flying Childers, in 1721, ran four miles, carrying nine stone two pounds, in the space of six minutes forty-eight seconds. This wonderful animal leaped ten yards with his rider upon level ground, and is supposed to have covered, at every spring in running, a space of twenty-five feet, which is more than forty-nine feet in a second. Eclipse ran four miles in York in eight minutes, carrying a weight of twelve stone, or one hundred and sixty-eight pounds. Bay Malton ran over the same course in seven minutes and forty-three and ahalf seconds. The present system of training race horses is to commence operations at four o'clock in the morning, by brushing the horse over. This being done, and the horse having finished his corn, he is taken to exercise: he takes his walking and galloping before and after water, according to his age, state of his flesh, &c. When he returns to the stable, whisping, leg-brushing, &c. ensue; afterwards feeding; and the door is closed, the horse being left to himself, free from all kinds of disturbance. This is finished as early in the day as possible. A similar process, but shorter, takes place three hours afterwards; at noon, brushing, feeding, &c. again, and the stable door is again closed for several hours, when similar operations to those of the morning are repeated; similar stable discipline follows, and the door is once more closed at six o'clock. At eight, the horses are fed and racked up. Their stables are often warmed by artificial heat. The administration of physic ought to depend upon circumstances. Immediately before the race commences, the jockeys are weighed, to see whether they are of the prescribed weight; and, immediately after the race is over, the weighing is repeated, to ascertain whether any of the weights have been dropped on the course.
Harewood, Harry. A Dictionary of Sports. London: T. Tegg and son, 1835
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