Horse Racing in America
Lotteries were not only the well-known gambling games at hand in colonial times.
Also known during that period was horse racing, since colonization. Jamestown acknowledged its first arrival of racehorses in 1620, amounting to seven.
1620, Virginia Company imported twenty 'beautiful and brave' mares, and racing started in earnest. The earliest horse races were easygoing affairs run over a limited distance. Colonists discovered that the expenses of clearing vast lands overlooked the structure of conventional racecourses.
They invented instead a competition of some sort similar to America, quarter horse racing. Racing enthusiasts set out a straight course with a quarter of a mile in distance over roads or on relatively even land, without trees.
Races were determined sprints from one end of the course to the other. Normally, a race competing two horses ridden by their possessors. Audience bet with one another on their ideal horses; often, the wagers were livestock, cash, or tobacco.
This kind of race expanded in seventeenth century Virginia, as well as it was found in the Northeastern Colonies.
In Philadelphia, the town council repetitively warned that horse racing on Sassafrass Street was prohibited. Such notices made by the town council were not heeded and townspeople called this thoroughfare Race Street, a tag that was later made official.
In Virginia, numerous gentry moderated horse racing and deemed it as their exclusive sporting field. Laws were made and passed, prohibiting that of belonged in the working class to bet on horse races.
In the Virginia Gazette, an advertisement of an awaited race meeting outlines the exclusiveness of this sport; the aim of the competitions, is to contain the county's appreciable count of gentlemen, businessmen, and reputable Planters a chance for combined friendship and brotherhood.
The attention warned that the audience must accord with decency and moderation, the Subscribers being determined to disapprove all immorality with the strongest admonition.
The gentry always wagered excessively on the result of quarter horse races. Two Virginia planters in 1693 wagered an amount of four thousand pounds of tobacco and 40 sterling shillings on their horse's speed.
The courteous participants often found themselves in argument over the terms of their bets or the fair shake of the race. Instead of resorting to break out fights, the gentlemen favored assistance in the courts.
In the late seventeenth centuries, courts in Virginia were attacked by belligerent planters seeking compromise in disputes over horse races.
To dishearten court suits, it became a fixed practice for gentlemen to acknowledge a wagering contract before the actual competition.
In 1690, a court in Henrico County, Virginia, dismissed a gambling suit since no cash was involved nor a signed agreement made one of which in such case is required by the law.