One of the more challenging aspects of writing historical romance is the amount of research one must do. It is not uncommon to spend 8 – 10 hours researching a fact that in less than a paragraph in the book. However, one must do it.
Recently, I added the element of thoroughbred racing to a novella I was writing. “His American Heartsong” is one to the two novellas included in the volume entitled His. I have always said that if I hit the lottery, I was going to move to Kentucky and raise thoroughbreds. So, finding out about thoroughbreds was time consuming but oh, so exciting.
Did you know that the origins of modern racing go back to the Crusades. Between the 12th and 16th centuries, Arab stallions were imported into England and mated with English mares to breed in speed and endurance.
Professional horse racing sprang to life in the reign of Queen Anne (1702-1714). By 1750, racing’s elite formed the Jockey Club at Newmarket. The Jockey Club still exercises complete control of English racing.
Since 1814, five races for 3-year-olds have been designated as “Classics”: The English Triple Crown, which includes the Epsom Derby, the 2000 Guineas, and the St. Leger Stakes, is open to both male and female horses. The Epsom Oaks and the 1000 Guineas is only for fillies.
Besides writing rules for racing, the Jockey Club designed steps to regulate horse breeding. James Weatherby traced the complete family history (pedigree) of every horse racing in England. In 1791, The Introduction to the General Stud Book was published. By the early 1800s, only horses descended from those listed in the General Stud book could be called “thoroughbreds.”
Now this is the amazing fact!!! The pedigree of every single horse thoroughbred can be traced back to to one of three stallions, which are referred to as the “foundation sires.” These stallions are Byerley Turk (foaled c.1679); the Darley Arabian (foaled c.1700), and Godolphin Arabian (foaled c. 1724).
Captain Robert Byerley of the Sixth Dragoon Guards (under King William III of Orange) captured the horse, later known as Byerley Turk, at the siege of Buda in Hungary in 1688.The stallion was Byerley’s war horse during King William’s War (in Ireland 1689). In 1690, the horse won the Silver Bell at Down Royal in Norther Ireland. He was placed to stud at Middridge Grange in Durham and later at Yorkshire.
The British Consul, Thomas Darley, took a liking to bay colt owned by Sheikh Mirza II (in Syria) and purchased the animal for 300 golden sovereigns. However the Sheikh reneged on the arrangements, and Darley was forced to have the horse smuggled out of Smyrna and brought to England in 1704. The animal was placed to stud in 1706 (through 1719).
Edward Coke imported the Godolpin Arabian from France in 1729. It is generally thought that Coke obtained the horse from the Duke of Lorraine. The horse was likely a tribute to France’s king from the Bey of Tunis. Coke brought the animal to Longford Hall in Derbyshire. He was set to stud as early as 1731.
These three horses “were brought to England in late 17th and early 18th centuries and crossed on English and imported mares. While it’s true that all modern Thoroughbreds descend in tail-male line to one of these stallions, upwards of 200 stallions, Arabians, Barbs, Turks, and others, were imported into England and are so noted in the General Stud Book.”