Horse racing was the first sport in Britain to be regulated. The Jockey Club, which still controls all aspects of racing in this country, was formed in 1750 when a number of the most powerful men in Britain, all with a strong interest in horse racing, met at the Start and Garter in Pall Mall in London. Early meetings took place there and also in St James Street and Hyde Park, but it wasn’t long before the club moved its headquarters to Newmarket, where they still are. A plot of land was leased there in 1752 and a coffee house opened in the High Street where members could meet. The freehold was then purchased, the building was named the Jockey Club Rooms – and it still is.
The first rules laid down by the Jockey Club were for the governance of races on Newmarket Heath, but they worked so well that they were taken up by other racecourses around the country and were soon in effect internationally. It wasn’t a big move from first setting the rules for racing to becoming the official governing body for British horse racing, and the Jockey Club still holds that position.
Fast forward 200 years and we come to 1964, when the Jockey Club got into the business of owning racecourses in order to protect the future of horseracing in Britain. The first race course to be bought was Cheltenham (strangely enough, Newmarket was not acquired until 1974) and the racecourses the Club owns now include Wincanton, Nottingham, Warwick, Market Rasen, Haydock Park, Aintree and Huntingdon.
Something of a change came about in 1993 when the British Horseracing Board was formed. The Jockey Club is still the regulator and still charged with devising and enforcing the rules that govern racing; the British Horseracing Board has a more overall function.