Roman era to Middle Ages
Around 200 AD, the very first horse races took place in Great Britain were organised by Carl. However not until the 9th century that there is a written mention of ‘running-horses’ is a record, from the French House of Capet. The horses are gifts to King Athelstan of England.
During the reign of Henry II, the first race meetings were recorded at Smithfield during the annual St Bartholomew’s horse fair.
For the next three centuries there are numerous Kings of England keeping possession of running-horses. Edward III bought horses at £13.7 each, and was also gifted two by the King of Navarre which growing the royal stud throughout the reign of Henry VII.
During the time of Henry VIII, the king passed a number of laws relating to the breeding of horses while importing a large number of stallions and mares. He also built a training establishment at Greenwich and a stud at Eltham.
That is also the time that formal race meetings started to be instigated. In 1512, the first occurrence of a trophy made of wooden ball decorated with flowers. was presented to the winner of a race by organisers of a fair in Chester. The racing at Chester is also the oldest surviving racecourse in England. In the 1580s Queen Elizabeth I attended races on Salisbury Plain.
During the reign of Elizabeth, interest in horse racing seems to have waned for unknown reasons. But this changed during the reign of James I who discovered the little village of Newmarket and began to spend time there racing horses. Ever since, Newmarket has been known as the home of horse racing in England. The first recorded race in Newmarket was a match for £100 between horses of Lord Salisbury and Marquess of Buckingham in 1622. It was so popular that the racecourse was quickly founded in 1636 and spring up everywhere in the country.
During the reign of Charles I, Spring and Autumn race meetings were presented to Newmarket and in 1634 the first Gold Cup event was held.
All horse racing was then banned in 1654 by Oliver Cromwell; however, Charles II restore the game and he instituted the Newmarket Town Plate in 1664.
This is also the time that three foundation sires of the modern thoroughbred, including the Darley Arabian, Byerley Turk, and Godolphin Barb were imported to England which are the predecessor of every modern thoroughbred racehorse. However, the improvement of the breed was not purely for sporting purposes but also for warfare and conquest.