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Topic section: Horse racing
Horse racing
Picture: 03_10262651.jpg
Lester Piggott, a famous horse jockey.
Credit: Science Museum/Science & Society Picture Library
Horse racing is one of the world’s oldest sports. It came to prominence in Britain during the eighteenth century as a sport for the rich, where large prizes could be won and bets made. From this early time, science was applied to the breeding of horses so that faster thoroughbreds were produced. Today, breeding race horses is a multi-million-

In 2002 the betting shops began running computer generated races and receipts on these races has been higher than expected

pound industry, and the arrival of the first cloned horse in 2003 has offered the sport new ways of thinking about breeding.

Racing spread greatly with the arrival of the railways, because jockeys, horses and crowds could move around the country to attend an ever-increasing number of meetings. By the nineteenth century gambling had established itself as a central part of horse racing. Because of the scale of the betting, it was important that races were seen to be fair and honest. In the 1880s starting gates were used for the first time in flat racing to ensure an even start, and from the 1930s the photo finish was introduced to ensure that there was a clear winner even in the closest of races.
Picture: 03_1996-7038_BTF_7570.jpg
Spectators at Epsom Race course, Surrey, 1966.
Credit: NMPFT

With the legalisation of off-course betting in 1961, the sport was once more transformed. Satellite television allowed the ‘live’ broadcast of all race meetings in Britain to betting shops. The demands of bookmakers to have all-year-round racing has also led to the use of all-weather tracks at Lingfield and other courses, so that even in the depths of winter racing can go ahead. In 2002 the betting shops began running computer-generated races, and receipts on these races have been higher than expected. While it is hard to imagine that such computer technology will ever replace the thrill of live horse racing, it does illustrate, for betting purposes at least, that science can produce a sport which is not necessarily dependent on natural athletes, and it may only be a matter of time before a generation raised on computer games begins placing bets on the outcomes of virtual athletics meetings and football matches.

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Topic section: Tennis
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Modern rackets have increased the speed of the ball so much that electronic systems have largely displaced human line judges. Even the ball is the product of technological innovation. But you will need more than the latest racket to beat the top players.  > more

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Topic section: Disability sport
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Disability sports are growing rapidly and technology is playing an important role in their development. There is a wide variety of sophisticated wheelchairs designed for specific sports. And the competitors’ prostheses are engineered for maximum performance.  > more
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