The History of SODO Horse Racing

Horse racing has been a popular sport for centuries, with its origins dating back to ancient civilizations such as Greece, Egypt, and Babylon. However, it wasn’t until the 17th century that organized horse racing began in England. From there, the sport spread to other parts of the world, including the United States. In Seattle, one of the most iconic horse racing venues is the SODO race track. In this blog post, we will delve into the history of SODO horse racing, the different types of races held at the track, the rules of horse racing at SODO, and more.

Different Types of Horse Races

At SODO, there are several types of horse races that take place throughout the year. These races can be divided into two main categories: flat racing and jump racing.

Flat Racing

Flat racing is the most common type of horse racing at SODO. As the name suggests, this type of race takes place on a flat surface, usually a turf or dirt track. The distance of the race can vary from 5 furlongs (5/8 of a mile) to 1 1/2 miles. The horses in flat races are required to carry a specific weight based on their age and sex, with the weight being carried by the jockey in a saddle.

There are three main types of flat races at SODO:

Maiden Races

Maiden races are for horses that have never won a race before. These races are a great opportunity for new horses to showcase their skills and potentially earn their first win.

Claiming Races

In claiming races, all the horses are up for sale at a predetermined price. This allows owners to sell their horses and for new owners to acquire them. The price of the horse is determined by its past performance and potential.

Stakes Races

Stakes races are the most prestigious and highest-paying races at SODO. These races attract top horses from around the country and even internationally. The prize money for stakes races can range from thousands to millions of dollars.

Jump Racing

Jump racing, also known as steeplechase, is a type of horse race where the horses are required to jump over obstacles such as fences and ditches. This type of race is not as common at SODO, but it still attracts a dedicated fan base. There are two main types of jump races at SODO:

Hurdle Races

Hurdle races are shorter in distance compared to flat races, usually ranging from 2-3 miles. The obstacles in hurdle races are lower and easier for the horses to jump over.

Steeplechase Races

Steeplechase races are longer in distance, ranging from 3-4 miles. The obstacles in these races are higher and more challenging, making it a true test of a horse’s jumping ability.

The Rules of Horse Racing at SODO

Like any other sports, horse racing has its own set of rules and regulations that must be followed by all participants. At SODO, these rules are strictly enforced to ensure fair competition and the safety of both the horses and jockeys.

Eligibility of Horses

To participate in a race at SODO, a horse must meet certain eligibility requirements. These include being registered with the Jockey Club, having a valid racing license, and being up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations.

Weight Requirements

As mentioned earlier, horses in flat races are required to carry a specific weight based on their age and sex. This weight is determined by the racing officials and is meant to level the playing field for all horses.

Starting the Race

Before the start of a race, the horses are led to the starting gate where they are loaded into individual stalls. Once all the horses are in place, the starter will open the gates and the race begins.

Finishing the Race

The first horse to cross the finish line is declared the winner of the race. However, there are certain rules in place to ensure a fair finish. For example, if a horse veers off course or interferes with another horse, it can be disqualified from the race.

How to Bet on Horse Races at SODO

Betting on horse races is a big part of the culture at SODO. It adds an extra level of excitement and anticipation for spectators, as they have a chance to win money based on their predictions. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to bet on horse races at SODO:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the different types of bets available. These include win, place, show, exacta, trifecta, and more.
  2. Study the racing program to get information about the horses, jockeys, trainers, and past performances.
  3. Set a budget for your bets and stick to it.
  4. Place your bets at the designated betting windows or self-service machines.
  5. Watch the race and cheer on your chosen horse.
  6. Collect your winnings if your horse wins.

It’s important to remember that betting on horse races is a form of gambling and should be done responsibly.

Famous Horse Races

SODO has been home to many famous horse races over the years. These races have attracted top horses, jockeys, and trainers from around the world, making them must-see events for horse racing enthusiasts. Some of the most famous horse races held at SODO include:

  • The Longacres Mile: This is the most prestigious race at SODO, with a purse of $200,000. It attracts top horses from around the country and is known for its fast-paced and exciting finish.
  • The Emerald Downs Derby: This race is for three-year-old horses and has a purse of $75,000. It is a great opportunity for young horses to showcase their potential.
  • The Washington Cup: This is a series of six races held at SODO, each with a purse of $50,000. These races are exclusively for horses bred in Washington state.

Famous Jockeys

Jockeys play a crucial role in horse racing, as they are responsible for guiding the horse to victory. Over the years, SODO has seen many talented jockeys who have made a name for themselves in the sport. Some of the most famous jockeys at SODO include:

  • Gary Stevens: Stevens is a Hall of Fame jockey who has won multiple races at SODO, including the Longacres Mile.
  • Vicky Baze: Baze is the winningest female jockey in North America and has had a successful career at SODO.
  • Gallyn Mitchell: Mitchell holds the record for most wins by a jockey at SODO, with over 1,300 victories.

Famous Racehorses

No discussion about horse racing would be complete without mentioning the famous racehorses that have graced the tracks at SODO. These horses have captured the hearts of fans and solidified their place in history. Some of the most famous racehorses at SODO include:

  • Trooper Seven: This horse was a fan favorite at SODO and won the Longacres Mile twice in 1980 and 1981.
  • Noosa Beach: Noosa Beach was a dominant force at SODO, winning multiple stakes races and setting track records.
  • Wasserman: Wasserman was a beloved horse at SODO, known for his consistency and determination on the track.

The Business of Horse Racing

Horse racing is not just a sport, but also a multi-billion dollar industry. At SODO, the business of horse racing involves various stakeholders, including owners, trainers, jockeys, and breeders. These individuals invest time, money, and resources into their horses in hopes of achieving success on the track.

The revenue for horse racing at SODO comes from several sources, including ticket sales, sponsorships, and betting. The prize money for races is also a significant source of income for owners and trainers.

The Culture of Horse Racing

Horse racing has a rich culture that goes beyond the sport itself. It is a social event where people come together to enjoy the races, place bets, and socialize with friends and family. At SODO, there are various events and activities held throughout the year, such as food festivals, live music, and themed race days.

Horse racing also has its own fashion and etiquette. Attendees are expected to dress up for the races, with women wearing fancy hats and men dressed in suits. There are also certain rules and traditions that must be followed, such as standing during the national anthem and respecting the horses and jockeys.

The Future of Horse Racing

While horse racing has a long and storied history, it is facing challenges in the modern world. With the rise of other forms of entertainment and concerns about animal welfare, the future of horse racing is uncertain. However, many efforts are being made to improve the sport and ensure its longevity.

At SODO, there have been initiatives to promote responsible breeding and retirement programs for racehorses. There are also plans to modernize the facilities and attract a younger audience through technology and social media.


In conclusion, SODO horse racing has a rich history and culture that continues to thrive today. From its humble beginnings in England to its current status as a multi-billion dollar industry, horse racing has captured the hearts of people around the world. At SODO, it is not just a sport but also a way of life for many. As we look towards the future, it is important to preserve the traditions and values of horse racing while also adapting to the changing times.