Different Types of Horse Racing Explained

Different Types of Horse Racing Explained

Horse racing is one of the most exciting and entertaining events that sports have to offer. However, casual horse racing fans tend to lump horse races together, often not knowing that there are many different events and, in turn, different types of horse racing. 

Most horse racing fans that have read Royal Ascot tips 2019 know about about the Triple Crown, the Melbourne Cup, or the Dubai World Cup. These events may be the most prestigious the sport has to offer, but they are not the only important horse racing events in the calendar year. They aren’t the only types of sports racing either.

Some races emphasize endurance, while others track speed or specific skills. Some horse races feature particular types of horses, while others grade horses competing at a specific level. Each type of horse racing offers different thrills for horses, jockeys, fans, and bettors alike. Before you place your money on a wager, it’s vital to understand the types of races you’re betting on, so we’ve listed them all below. 

Flat Racing 

As the name suggests, flat racing takes place on courses where there are no obstacles to jump over — horses run on a flat, leveled surface. Any race that is run on a flat surface without hurdles qualifies as a flat race. The length of flat racing courses ranges from 400 m (440 yards) up to 4 km (two and a half miles). Most flat races are run on turf, but some events are still held on dirt tracks as well, especially in the US.

The Triple Crown is certainly the most popular flat horse racing event in North America, while the Epsom Derby is one of the most prestigious horse racing events of this type in the UK.

In the UK and Europe, flat racing is further divided into two categories: 

  • Handicap Racing 
  • Conditions Racing 

Both of these types of flat races refer to different handicaps set for horses before the event. Condition races are further divided into subcategories based on horses’ age, sex, or another distinction. 

Handicap races are different in a sense that handicap is not based on the horse’s sex or age — it’s decided by the handicapper. Handicappers consider pace, speed, post position, class, pedigree, and any other relevant factor that could influence the outcome of the race. 

Jump Racing (National Hunt) 

As you might have guessed by looking at the name, jump racing is defined as racing in which horses jump over obstacles. Naturally, they are more challenging as the horses have to overcome beyond the surrounding competition and the track length. In the UK and Europe, these kinds of races are known as National Hunt. 

The two main subcategories of Jump racing are:  

  • Fences (also known as Steeplechases) 
  • Hurdles 

Hurdles are smaller in height (they have a minimum height of one meter), and are designed to cause less falling, and thus fewer injuries. 

Fences are much more challenging, with obstacles being at least 1.4 m high. In Steeplechases, horses leap over various obstacles, including water, fences, and open ditches. 

Endurance Racing 

In endurance racing, horses have to run over longer tracks, or over more extended periods. Unlike flat or jump racing, endurance racing tests horses’ longevity and endurance on a track. Speed isn’t a significant factor here for bettors — the main focus is on horses that don’t fade over more extensive courses. All horse breeds are trained for this type of race, but Arabian horses are the most sought-after due to their elite endurance and stamina. 

Other Types of Horse Racing 

There are plenty of other types of horse racing, but they aren’t as popular as these three. Those are: 

  • Harness Racing
  • Quarter Horse Racing
  • Maiden Racing 
  • Allowance and Claiming Racing
  • Stakes Racing
  • Graded Stakes Racing.