During the late 1920s and the ’30s racetracks became an important source of tax revenue, and by the second half of the 20th century horse racing had become big business. Fields regularly numbered a dozen or more. Once race meetings lasted a day or two, later a week or two, and today, particularly where climate allows, races may be scheduled for half the year or more. More racing dates require more horses, and horses are raced more intensively. Purses grew, particularly after World War II. In 1981 a new American race, the Arlington Million (run at Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois, outside of Chicago), was the first million-dollar race. Purses routinely topped this amount in the 21st century, growing to greater than $10 million for certain high-profile races.
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Chariot racing was one of the most popular ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine sports. Both chariot and mounted horse racing were events in the ancient Greek Olympics by 648 BC and were important in the other Panhellenic Games. It continued although chariot racing was often dangerous to both driver and horse, which frequently suffered serious injury and even death. In the Roman Empire, chariot and mounted horse racing were major industries. From the mid-fifteenth century until 1882, spring carnival in Rome closed with a horse race. Fifteen to 20 riderless horses, originally imported from the Barbary Coast of North Africa, were set loose to run the length of the Via del Corso, a long, straight city street; their time was about 2½ minutes.