Aug

14

 Here in the States all horses run counter-clockwise (you can almost feel this answer coming, can't you?) except the ones I wager on, which, due to an optical illusion known among professional gamblers as "being slow," appear actually to run backwards.

But in all seriousness, the clockwise/counter-clockwise question is a very good one. Why should American horse races should be run opposite horse races everywhere else in the world? The horses certainly don't seem to care; European horses frequently ship to the U.S. and perform well despite having no "real race" counter-clockwise experience. And therein lies the answer. As usual when things that don't make sense, politics is to blame.

The first circular racetrack in the U.S. was built by Col. William Whitley near Crab Orchard, KY in Lincoln County, 50 miles south of Lexington in one of the first three original Kentucky counties. Reportedly, the only thing Whitley hated more than the British was losing a horse race. When he built his racetrack, he mandated it be opposite the British style of racing in every way possible. The racing surface was made of clay, not turf, as was customary in British racing. And most important, he reversed the course that the horses run from clockwise to counter-clockwise.

Incidentally, would you believe that Man-O-War in 1920 was the last horse to win the Belmont Stakes in clockwise fashion? From 1867 to 1920 the Belmont Stakes was run clockwise "in keeping with the European tradition." But hey, it's New York. What else would you expect?


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