This post details the fundamental elements of both flat and National Hunt racing, and also lists the different types of races and conditions within each sphere.
Flat racing is seen by many as the purer form of racing in which the horse’s speed/stamina is tested more effectively. Flat races in the UK vary in length from five furlongs (1,006m) to over two miles, with the shorter races being titled as sprints, the longer races as “stayers” and the in between as middle distance.
Flat races can be run on the natural grass (known as turf) or a synthetic surface (refered to as all weather, AW.) Flat racing generally begins at the end of March and finishes in October but there is the option of the all weather for horses to race on during the winter months (which are usually held during the evenings under floodlight.)
There are also the most popular and highly regarded flat races which include five Classics – 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, The Oaks, The Derby and the St Leger Meeting. Not forgetting the Prestigious 5 day meeting of Royal Ascot of which we’ve had runners on numerous occasions!
National Hunt Racing
National Hunt races include hurdle races, steeplechases and National Hunt flat races (commonly known as “bumpers.”) Once you’ve started a career over hurdles or fences, you cannot return to bumpers (flat horses cannot run in bumpers either.)
Hurdles are what they say on the tin and are generally constructed so if a horse knocks the top section of the barrier they are unlikely to fall or become injured. They are built to a minimum height of three foot, six inches. With Steeplechases, horses must negotiate fences, but also open ditches and water jumps. The fences are constructed with more solidity and height than hurdles – often natural bushes are used – and are less forgiving, meaning horses must jump higher and cleaner to avoid a fall.
Both races are divided into categories based on the age/experience of the horse and can be run over distances from 2 miles to 4 miles – the latter really tests horses’ stamina! Big National Hunt meetings include the Cheltenham Festival, Grand National, Celebration Chase Day.
All weather race – a race that is run on the all weather surface. This surface can sustain racing under any kind of weather conditions
Auction Maiden – for 2-year olds originally sold by auction at specified sales
Chases – over the larger obstacles in the National Hunt world, commonly known as fences
Claiming – each horse is allocated a weight according to the claiming price determined by connections
Classic – series of annual flat races for 3-year old thoroughbred. These include 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, Epsom Oaks, Epsom Derby and St. Leger Stakes
Classified Stakes – races with a max rating for horses that have run at least 3 times
Condition Stakes – races for horses below class A
Division 1 or 2 – these happen when races are split into two because they were oversubscribed
Gentlemen – male amateurs only
Grade – highest class level of races in National Hunt racing
Group – the highest class of race in flat racing. Can be Group 1, 2 or 3
Handicap – races where the weight a horse has to carry is determined by the official handicapper. They usually comes in brackets ie. 0-90 handicap, 0-120 handicap hurdle etc
Juvenile races – these are open only to 3-year old horses if the race takes place between October and December, or 4-year olds if the race takes place between January and April.
Lady – female amateurs and female apprentices
Listed – a step below Group races
Maiden – for horses that have never won
Maiden handicap – for 3-year old+ maidens with a max rating of 70 that have run at least four times
Median Auction Maiden – for 2-year old by stallions that established a median price for their yearlings at certain sales. These races usually disregard the likes of Godolphin, Stoute horses
Novice hurdle – any horse that has not won a hurdle race in novice company for the entire season
Nursery – handicap for 2-year old horses only
Sales race – only horses that were purchased at a particular sale can compete.
Selling – for low class horses. The winners are offered for auction. Any other runner can be claimed too