SPORT OF KINGS
1603 – 1713, British Racing Flourishes under the Stuart Monarchs
Shortly after James I arrived from Scotland to assume the British throne in 1603, he built the first palace at Newmarket, halfway between London and Norwich, then England's second city. While James primarily came to Newmarket to hunt, he also raced his horses there. His son, Charles I, inherited his father’s hunting and racing interests, and was also a frequent visitor to Newmarket, which remains the center of English racing. Meanwhile, numerous other racecourses sprang up around the country, many with their own rules.
After the execution of Charles I and the English Civil War, Puritan general, Oliver Cromwell established the British Commonwealth in 1649. While racing was now discouraged, Cromwell’s dispersal of the royal studs made their blood more generally available to non-royal breeders, actually aiding the development of better racehorses.
Charles II Introduces Racing Silks, Poles, Trophies, and Purses
After the Restoration of the monarchy, Charles II reactivated and expanded the racing and breeding facilities at Newmarket. He encouraged commoners to attend races, initiated the use of poles at furlong intervals (one-eighth of a mile) on the race course, and introduced the use of racing silks. Charles also offered numerous trophies and purses to encourage the breeders to increase the qualities of their horses, and even rode in the races himself. His active support of racing set the stage for the arrival of the Thoroughbred ‘foundation sires’ only a few years after his death.