Friday, March 26, 2010

Author Guest Post: The Sport of Kings from Genesis to Zenith by Emery Lee



I am pleased to announce that Emery Lee, author of The Highest Stakes, has created an enlightening guest post for us about the history of equestrian racing! If you missed my review of this debut novel, be sure to read it here: The Highest Stakes Review.

Thank you Emery, for honoring "Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog" with your presence.

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The Sport of Kings from Genesis to Zenith              by Emery Lee

Although racing horses for sport dates back to the ancient Greeks, the first sanctioned races in modern times were the Royal Plates by order of Charles II. The king himself commissioned a new round course on Newmarket Heath in 1665, where the first twelve stone plate was run, and later held annually on the second Thursday of October.

                                                      
      Horse race at Warren Hill in Newmarket   

The stated 12 stone, equivalent to 168 pounds, represented the amount of weight each horse would carry inclusive of rider and tack. The horses were at least six years old and the normal distance four miles, with multiple heats. Interestingly, Charles II frequently rode his own horses and reputedly won the plate at  least two times!

While six Royal Plates were held during the reign of the Merry Monarch, there were no Royal Plates during the brief reign of James II, and only eleven during the years under William and Mary.

The dawning of the eighteenth century, however, breathed new life into the sport of kings (and queens) with the patronage of Queen Anne, a noted equestrienne, who first laid out the racecourse at Ascot. While riding the open heath near Windsor Castle, she remarked that it would be ideal to “gallop horses at full stretch.”

Her Majesty’s Plate at Ascot, worth 100 guineas, and open to any horse; mare or gelding over the age of six, first took place August 11, 1711. Seven horses ran three heats of four miles, but no winner recorded for posterity. During Queen Anne’s era (1702-1714) a total of twenty-eight Royal Plates were run.

Though competition in horseracing began to heat up with ninety races under George I, racing was still in its embryonic stage. It was actually under George II that horseracing reached its true zenith, with four-hundred-sixty-two Royal Plates run between 1727 and 1760.

Following the example set by Charles II in the prior century, for whom horseracing came to be called” the sport of kings,” the aristocrats of the Georgian age embraced horse racing as the means to several ends. 

These gentlemen of rank and title wholeheartedly pursued every manner of pleasure, dissipation, and gaming. They bet on horses because they bet on everything from cards and dice, to cock fighting, bear baiting, and bare-fisted pugilism.

Horses, in particular were ideally suited for this fast-living crowd who admired no virtue more than “bottom.”

With this growing fervor came the importation of Eastern blood horses, the kings of the desert well known for their unparalleled stamina.  The Byerley Turk, the Darley Arabian, and later the Godolphin Arabian (sometime called Barb) were some of the very best horses selectively crossed with the blood of the early mares of Charles II to create an entirely new type of horse. Bred specifically for the speed and stamina needed for racing, this horse became known around the world as the English Thoroughbred.
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Great news everyone! I have just learned that Sourcebooks has agreed to publish a sequel to The Highest Stakes. Emery Lee is now hard at work writing Fortune's Son, which has an expected release date of Fall 2011. I will be sure to post any new information as soon as it comes my way!


If you would like to learn more about Emery Lee and her wonderful novel The Highest Stakes, you can visit her website: authoremerylee.com




Copyright © 2010 Svea Love. All Rights Reserved.