For centuries, horses - a fundamental part of Turkish culture - have been used in many areas ranging from daily life and agriculture to sports activities, and this close relationship has naturally led to horse racing and equestrian sports.
The complete institutionalisation of horse racing and breeding activities in Turkey dates back to 1950, when the Jockey Club of Turkey (TJK) was founded.
TJK was granted authority for its activities in horse racing and breeding as a non-profit and public benefit organization in 1953. Since then, TJK is the only organization in Turkey authorised to organize horse races and pari-mutuel betting.
Today, TJK conducts its activities in horse racing, breeding and pari-mutuel betting at nine racecourses, one training center, seven stud farms and covering stations and over 2,800 off-course betting shops. These activities provide employment for 240,000 people.
Over 700 meetings and 5,300 races are held each year for Thoroughbreds and Purebred Arabians, and over 1 billion TRY is distributed as prize money, including the premiums for owners and breeders.
Gazi Derby, the top event of Turkish Racing, has been organised on the last Sunday of June uninterruptedly since 1927. It is considered to be the most prestigious race for thoroughbreds and offers over 2 million TRY to the winner.
International Racing Festival, organised during the first weekend of September at the Istanbul Veliefendi Racecourse, is another major racing event. The organisation includes seven international races; five of which are Group Races for Thoroughbreds and one Group race for Purebred Arabians.