After football and rugby, horse racing is the third most popular spectating sport in Australia. No less than 360 racecourse are registered, which is the largest number worldwide. The annual number of horses starting in the races leaves Australia only after the U.S. Looking at the prize money, Australia comes in third of the world. With about 12,5 billion dollar in wages on an annual basis, Australian horse racing may call itself a multi-billion dollar industry. Being such a big industry it provides a very large amount of jobs and over 300.000 people are directly or indirectly involved in horse ownerships.
Along with the first fleet, on 26 January 1788 the first horses entered down under, bringing horse racing with them. By 1810 horse racing had founded its ground around Sydney and the Australian Jockey Club (AJC) saw its first light of day. The headquarters of the AJC settled in Randwick and started regulating the sport. Nowadays the Australian Racing Board (ARB) regulates and administers the sport abiding by the Australian Rules of Racing. Even though there is a national board there are differences in ruling per state. One of the board’s responsibilities is to make sure the additional state rules do not conflict with the national rules.
There are two kinds of thoroughbred races in Australia. Flat racing and steeplechase racing in South Australia and Victoria. Over a hundred thousand people attend to these races every year. With international races such as the Melbourne Cup, Victoria is to be considered the basis of Australian horse racing.
The Melbourne Cup is by far the most famous race in Australia. This race has a history that goes back to 1877. Ever since then, every first Tuesday of November is known as Cup Day. It has become the most famous Tuesday of Australia, so popular it even became a public holiday in the Melbourne region. On this day all of Australia doesn’t think of anything else and attend to the racecourse at large. There is a very festive mood throughout the race and it has become a place for people to show off looking their Sunday’s best. Some people attend wearing traditional race track fashion and others just dress up in how they see fit. There are even prizes to win for the best dressed man and woman.
Former thoroughbred race horses are often continuing their carreer in steeple chasing, which is also very popular throughout Australia.
In 2007 the horse racing industry had a rough time. It was in this year that Equine Influenza was discovered on very large horse complex in Sydney. The disease spread very fast to a lot of areas of New South Wales and southern Queensland. Immediately all competing horse activities were brought to a hold. Luckily the racing resumed rather quickly in the areas where the Equine Influenza had not spread. This was a lot of pressure on the industry because of the lack of Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds.
Horse racing in Australia is more than just a sport. It is of high importance to the Australian culture. High society and working class meet on the racetracks sharing their passion for a high quality equestrian sport.