South African HorseRacing

1. History of South African Horse Racing

Horses have been in the country since the Dutch settled in the Cape in 1652, but horse racing can only be traced back to 1797. The Dutch had no particular interest in using horses for racing, until British settlement and rule in 1795. The British quickly established horse racing, as thoroughbreds were imported into the country to produce better stock for the sport. By 1825 10 colony areas hosted racing events. Following the economic boom after the discovery of diamonds and gold in 1871 and 1873 respectively, far more people moved to the country and had the money to invest in the sport. More thoroughbreds were brought into the country and the sport grew exponentially. Officially the National Horseracing Authority (formerly known as the Jockey Club of South Africa) was founded in 1882.

2. Horse Racing in South Africa Today

Today horse racing has become a multi million dollar industry with thousands of enthusiasts and industry workers. The country’s economy benefits greatly from the industry, with an annual contribution of 3 billion Rand (roughly 214 million US Dollars). It is particularly popular amongst South Africa’s wealthy and famous elite, where prestigious racing events are as much about what you wear as it is about the watching the horses.

3. Major Group 1 Races

Three major group 1 races are held in South Africa, the Summer Cup held in Johannesburg, the Sun Met and the L’ormarins Queen’s Plate held in Cape Town and the Durban July in Durban. The Sun Met is known as the biggest and most prestigious event. Started in the 1800’s, the event offers spectators a world class racecourse, an opportunity to watch the country’s finest thoroughbreds race for a portion of 2.5 million Rand (178 thousand US Dollars) prize money and the chance to dress up in your finest to the current years theme where celebrities mingle.

4. Major Race Tracks

South Africa’s major race tracks include Turffontein, Kenilworth, Arlington, Fairview, Vaal, Bloemfontein, Clairwood, Scottsville and Griqualand. Host to one of South Africa’s biggest races, the Summer Cup, Turffontein is a 2700 meter oval track known to test a horse’s stamina around its bends. The race course has world class inner and outer track. Kenilworth is host to the The Sun Met and the L’ormarins Queen’s Plate, and is the oldest course in South Africa. Apart from being a world-class course, it offers a 129-acre nature reserve that preserves 310 plant species, of which 34 are endangered. Greyville hosts the prestigious Durban July event, and is the first track in South Africa to provide for night racing after successful building floodlights. Situated in the centre of Durban it offers a 2800 meter pear-shaped track.

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