The Arabian horse originated from the Arabian Peninsula where it has been raced for centuries. This breed is smaller in size and more one paced than the Thoroughbred. It is very attractive and intelligent, generally noted for its ability to endure sustained effort over long distances. In January 2000 the Abu Dhabi one-day 100 mile race was won by a 10 year old Purebred Arab gelding, Ben Saloe, at an astonishing average speed of 12.71 mph!
The Arabian has been in Britain since the Romans conquered our shores. They raced them at Netherby (Yorkshire) long before the Thoroughbred was produced. James I kept Arabians, including the famous Markham Arabian, at Newmarket where he instituted a kind of steeplechase on Newmarket Heath. The Parliamentarians confiscated his Stud in 1648 and his horses were dispersed - most being lost from record.
The Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian and the Byerly Turk from the 18th Century were to become the progenerators of the British Thoroughbred stock. Weatherby's Stud Book began in 1791 based on these three Arabians. Prior to this, the Jockey Club was founded in 1752.
By 1885 the speedy Thoroughbred had evolved to be so fast that the Purebred Arabian was no longer a match for it even when given a large allowance. So the racing of this smaller breed on official tracks was stopped. It was not until 1978 that they were returned to the tracks once more. A few racing enthusiasts from the Arab Horse Society, led by Ann Unwin, gained permission from the Jockey Club to organise Amateur flat races. Since then, for the past 22 seasons, the sport has flourished under Jockey Club Rules, on official courses and has grown to be the most active of its kind in Europe.
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