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All Types of Horse Races

Published on: 19/08/2011

Horse racing in Britain got its start in the 12th century when English knights returned home from the Crusades with Arabian horses. It has been part of British culture ever since.

The very first state-sanctioned racing events were organised at Newmarket between 1660 and 1685 under the reign of Charles II. In the centuries that followed, the “Sport of Kings” became known throughout the world, taking a variety of forms as it spread.

Most horse races run today can be split into two basic categories: flat racing and jumps racing. Turns and gradients are sometimes incorporated into flat racing tracks, but there are no barriers or obstacles to be negotiated. Following are the most common forms of flat and jumps races in the United Kingdom and beyond.

Flat Racing

Allowance Race – This is a non-claiming race intended for younger horses not yet ready for stakes competition or horses that are not for sale. Such races may be limited to non-winners or limited to entries that have not yet won one, two, or three stakes races. Weight allowances, such as three pounds, may be applied based upon recent track records or age-sex differences.

All-Weather Races – This refers to flat races conducted on a purpose-built artificial surface that can sustain racing under any weather conditions. Although all-weather races can be run year round, they are most often conducted in the winter. The best-known all-weather racing in Britain is on the Polytrack surface at Lingfield Park in Surrey.

Amateur Race – This is a horse race that is open only to amateur jockeys. On the race card, the amateur jockeys can easily be identified by the title Mr., Mrs. or Miss prefixed to their names.

Apprentice Races – This category of flat horse races is restricted only to apprentice jockeys (i.e., those in the first stage of becoming professional riders). They may be allowed to claim weight allowances depending on the rules of the specific race and their individual racing experience. In jump-racing, the equivalent of an apprentice is a “conditional” jockey.

Claiming Race – This type of race serves primarily as a means of buying and selling horses. Trainers give their own horses a handicap to reflect their perceived value. A after the race, all of the runners are up for sale and can be bought (“claimed”). One important claiming race provision is that the winner can be claimed by its current owner. In the United States today, claiming races make up about 70% of all races conducted.

Classic Races – When referred to in Great Britain, the “Classics” are a series of annual flat races for three-year-old Thoroughbreds. They include the 1,000 Guineas Stakes, 2,000 Guineas Stakes, Epsom Oaks, Epsom Derby and St. Leger Stakes. The 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks are restricted to fillies, while the other three are open to both fillies and colts. In the United States, the so-called “Classics” comprise the Triple Crown races—Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and Preakness—as well as the Travers Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic, all run over distances of a mile and one-quarter or longer.

Conditions Race – Sometimes referred to as “Weight-for-Age Races,” conditions races require each entry to carry a set weight, depending on such factors as age, sex and racing history. Any race which is not classed as a handicap race is, by default, a conditions race. One of the most famous of these is the Epsom Derby.

Group Race – All around Europe, this term is a reference to the classification status of a horse race. Group 1 is premier class, which includes the Classics and the highest level of competition. Group 2 races also have international prestige, while Group 3 races are typically contested by the best domestic entries. Collectively, all three Group levels are sometimes referred to as “Graded Races” or “Pattern Races.” Below these in status are the so-called “Listed Races.”

Handicap Race – For events in which horses of different abilities are allowed to compete against one another, the competition is made fairer and more entertaining by allocating “handicaps” or specified weights to carry depending upon their abilities. The handicaps are usually based upon a horse’s official rating, as determined by past achievements. Horses with the highest ratings receive the top weights allocated, while the lower-ranked entries receive relatively lighter weights.

Harness Racing – Sometimes referred to as “trotting,” this is a form of racing in which horses compete at a specific gait (a trot or pace). Each horse typically pulls a two-wheeled, bodiless cart called a “sulky,” upon which the jockey sits. In some parts of Europe, trotting is conducted under saddle, such as trot monté in France.

Left-Handed Race – This is a route race in which the turns are taken anti-clockwise from the starting position.

Listed Race – Most common in Europe, this refers to any stakes race just below Group races in quality.

Listed Stakes – Especially in the United States, this refers to a sub-category of open stakes with a minimum purse value of $50,000-added; it is typically judged important enough to be “listed” on the pages of international sales catalogues.

Maiden Races – These special events, also known as “maidens,” are restricted to horses that have never won a race. They may include first-time starters, second-time starters and “experienced maidens” that finished 2nd or 3rd last time out.

Maiden-Claiming Race – This is a race featuring maidens that are entered for sale at the day’s claiming price. By their nature, these races tend to draw the slowest, cheapest and least reliable horses from each stable.

Middle Distance Races – This category includes all types of flat races longer than seven furlongs but less than 1¼ miles.

Nursery Race – This is a type of handicap race open exclusively to two-year-old horses.

Open Stakes – This is a stakes race in which any horse may be entered upon fulfilling entry requirements, such as submitting necessary nomination, entry and starting fees.

Pattern Race – A term commonly used throughout Europe, this is a reference to horse races with Group status; see “Group Race.”

Qualifying Race – This refers to a race in which a horse must place in order to gain an invitation to enter another, more prestigious event. For example, the Group 2 Joel Stakes in September serves as a qualifier for the Group 1 Queen Elizabeth II Stakes on QIPCO British Champions Day at Ascot in October. Informally, a qualifying race may also refer to an event that serves as a stepping stone to improve a horse’s official handicap rating.

Restricted Claiming Race – This category of claiming races is restricted to horses that have not won two or three races in total or else no more than one race in the current season. Other restrictions may also apply in order to increase competition and the quality of the entries, as weaker fields tend to run in claiming races.

Restricted Stake – This is a stakes race that bars former winners of stakes races.

Right-Handed Race – This is a route race in which the turns are taken clockwise from the starting position.

Route Race – This is a flat race that covers a distance of one mile or more; with the exception of the “straight mile,” route races feature one, two or more turns.

Sprint Race – Also known as a “sprint,” this is a Thoroughbred flat race of less than one mile in length, typically run on a straight course. However, on longer tracks with chutes, such races may feature one turn.

Stakes Race – This refers to races requiring entrance fees, which are used to increase the size of the prize pool. As a result, such races attract experienced or high-quality horses and reward top finishers with significant prize money (i.e., “stakes”).

Turf Race – This refers to a flat race run on a grass surface. The British flat-racing season on turf begins in early spring and runs throughout the summer and autumn. Among the most famous courses for turf races are Ascot, Newmarket and Epsom Downs.

Jump Racing

Bumper Race – This refers to a special category of National Hunt Races without barriers or obstacles. In effect, it is a flat race open to young horses that are training to jump, in order to give them more experience of racing competition. So-called “bumpers” often feature amateur jockeys, too.

Hunter Chase – This form of steeplechase is open only to horses that have been hunted regularly and are qualified to compete in point-to-point races.

Hurdle – This type of jumps race is restricted to horses aged three years and older and it covers a distance of two to three miles and features collapsible jumps at least 3½ feet high. Among the most noteworthy Hurdle races in Great Britain are the Stan James Intermediate Hurdle held at Newbury and the Cheltenham Festival’s Champion Hurdle.

National Hunt Race – This refers to any of a series of annually scheduled jumps races, in which the horses must jump over obstacles such as fences, ditches and pools of water. The National Hunt jump-racing season takes place during winter and spring, and nowadays it sometimes lasts longer.

Novice Race – This is a designation commonly applied to National Hunt jump-races in which only horses that have not won that particular type of race prior to that season are allowed to compete. Novices may also be defined in flat racing as those horses that have not won more than two races.

Point-to-Point Race – This is a type of steeplechase open only to amateur jockeys, with a season running from January to June each year. Future jump-racing stars can often be seen in such events.

Steeplechase – This type of jumps race covers a distance of between two and four miles, and it is restricted to horses aged four years and older. It features large jumps, at least 4½ feet high, which are fixed in place so that they do not collapse. The most famous Steeplechases in Great Britain are the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National held annually at Aintree.

Published on: 19/08/2011 © Bet Bind
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