In the world of sports, horse racing is often unfairly overlooked or forgotten. It’s actually the second most popular spectator sport in the UK, with football naturally taking the number one spot, but it can be difficult to find someone who would consider themselves a “fan” of horse racing. That’s a shame, in our opinion; this can be an incredibly thrilling and rewarding sport to follow, and the world of thoroughbred breeding and what makes a great racehorse can be fascinating. If you’re new to horse racing, allow us to introduce you. Here’s how to get into horse racing, and why we think it’s a good idea to do so.

There are lots of events you can go to

What could be more fun than going along to a sporting event and making a day out of doing so? While football matches are relatively short affairs, horse racing events usually last all day, so you’ll have plenty to occupy yourself if you decide to visit one. In addition, there are many different events to choose from. Take the Royal Ascot, for example, an early-June event that is one of the most important on the calendar. Trainer Andrew Balding described this event as “the most important [event] of the year” for flat horse trainers in an interview with horse racing betting site Betway. There’s also the Kentucky Derby, of course, as well as the Grand National, the Dubai World Cup, and plenty more!

You don’t need to learn lots of arcane rules

Many sports essentially require you to memorise a rulebook before you can truly enjoy them (we’re looking at you, rugby). However, this very much isn’t the case for horse racing. All you truly need to be able to do is follow the progress of any particular horse that you’re rooting for; a horse either wins a race or it doesn’t. Some races may feature points systems or multiple individual racing events, but for the most part, horse racing is one of the simplest and most easy-to-follow sporting disciplines you could hope to get into. If you often find yourself confused by more complex sports (no shame – we do too), then horse racing is definitely for you.

It might inspire you to learn to ride

Learning to ride horses can be a difficult skill to acquire, but it can also be immensely rewarding if you do it. Riding a horse is an unparalleled feeling; you won’t get the same rush from driving a car or pushing a bike along a track. The feeling that the creature you’re riding is alive, sentient, and possessed of its own mind and inclinations is difficult to describe or match anywhere else. Watching horse racing could be the perfect inspiration for you to learn to ride a horse yourself; jockeys aren’t masters of their animals, after all, but are instead building a relationship with them, learning to understand them and predict their whims accurately. 

Horse racing can be more affordable than other sports

It’s no secret that sports are big business. Major leagues like the UK’s Premier League or the USA’s NFL or NBA prove that corporations fully understand how passionate fans are about the sport (and how much money they’re willing to spend, on a related note). Horse racing is no exception; many of the major horse racing events throughout the year command huge prize pools, after all. However, you’ll often find that horse racing events are generally cheaper to attend than big tentpole NBA games or Premier League matches might be. If you’re looking for a fun, exciting sporting event that won’t break the bank, you might want to consider going along to a race day event.

You can make new friends

Since horse racing is a more spread-out affair than other sports, this means that during “downtime”, you’ll get to know other people at the races better than you might if you’re attending a football game, for example. In countries like Australia, horse racing has often been seen as a great way for budding socialites to get their names out there; being spotted and talked to at a horse race is a good way to build a reputation for yourself. Even if you’re not looking to move among the glitterati, though, you’ll find lots of like-minded individuals at a horse racing event, and they’re so rarely beset by hooliganism, too.

There’s more of a traditional code

Football matches and other sporting events generally don’t dictate dress codes (although you get bonus points if you show up in your team’s colours, of course). That doesn’t necessarily hold for a day at the races. Many major race events, like the UK’s Royal Ascot, have actual dress codes; while they may not be strictly enforced, you are expected to wear certain clothing, and if you don’t, you may attract some curious looks from other attendees. This can be a huge part of the fun. Dressing to impress and including yourself in the “in-group” of horse racing can be a big thrill in and of itself, never mind the racing!

Tech is the great leveler

Horse racing has become so much easier to follow and to participate in thanks to the prevalence of technology. Now, everyone has access to the internet from their smartphone, so if you want to know something, you can just search for it using your phone’s search function or browser. This means that while you’re at the races, you can easily pull up a wealth of information about that day’s horses and jockeys, as well as overall standings and what events you might want to attend next. You can also keep up with the movers and shakers of horse racing thanks to social media; many jockeys and industry pundits have active social media accounts you can follow for news and analysis.