Horse racing has a long and rich history, having been practiced by countless civilizations around the world for centuries.
Some horse racing events place an emphasis on specific skills, while others track endurance and speed of the horse. There are also horse races that are restricted by specific types of horses, while others only feature graded horses during an event.
Whether you are a newcomer or horse racing veteran, it is vital that you understand the differences of each horse race type prior to placing a bet.
In this section of our website, we will take an in-depth look at each type of horse race that you will come across either online or next to the track.
Flat racing is undoubtedly the most popular horse racing type in the world. These racing events usually occur on leveled or flat surfaces, and these events are predominantly raced by thoroughbred horses. Flat racing can take place on any level surface. Some of the most popular flat racing events from across the globe include:
- Epsom Derby
- Japan Cup
- The Everest
- Melbourne Cup
- Pegasus World Cup Invitational
- Sheema Classic
- Breeders’ Cup Classic
- Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe
- Dubai World Cup
- Kentucky Derby
- 2,000 Guineas Stakes
- 1,000 Guineas Stakes
- Epsom Oaks
- Leger Stakes
A horse race that takes place on a level surface — without any hurdles of obstacles placed on the track — can be classified as a flat race. Once you begin your in-depth journey into flat horse racing, you will find that most of the racing events take place at a distance of 1 to 3 miles. This obviously depends on where the event is taking place and the surface of the race track.
A turf surface is undoubtedly the most popular in horse racing, but you will also come across flat racing events that occur on dirt and grass.
In the United Kingdom and European countries, there are two types of flat racing classifications — conditions racing and handicap racing. Both these flat racing events come equipped with handicaps that essentially affect the horses in each race, making it far more interesting to watch and to bet on. For instance, a conditions race will have restrictions on the age and sex of the horse, while a handicap race will give additional weight to lighter horses in order to level the playing field.
Handicap racing events are often created by a handicapper and will not include any restrictions on the age or sex of a horse. Instead, handicapper will look at other elements in a race, including the jockey, the speed of the horse, the pace at which the horse runs, the form of the horse, post position and the pedigree of the horse. Now that you have a better understanding of flat racing, let’s take a closer look at jump racing.
Jump racing/National Hunt
Jump racing, also referred to as National Hunt, is basically a horse racing event that also includes hurdles or obstacles on the track. Participating runners in the event will not only need to overcome the surface and distance of a track, but will also need to jump over a series of obstacles and hurdles along the way before the race is completed. People in the United States will call this jump racing, while those in the United Kingdom and European countries will call this National Hunt.
National Hunt is immensely popular in France, Ireland and the United Kingdom, but not as popular as flat racing events in the United States. The horses that participate in jump racing events are required to jump over a multitude of obstacles and hurdles, while also avoiding fences, water and ditches, depending on the jump racing event. You can basically divide jump racing into two categories, namely hurdles racing and steeplechase.
In hurdles racing, participating horses are required to leap over obstacles and hurdles. In steeplechase racing, participating horses are required to leap over numerous obstacles and avoid fences, water and ditches. Some of the most popular jump racing events from across the globe include:
- Betfair Chase
- Fighting Fifth Hurdle
- King George VI Chase
- Aintree Grand National
- Hennessy Gold Cup
- Cheltenham Gold Cup
- Queen Mother Champion Chase
- Clarence House Chase
- Finale Juvenile Hurdle
- Christmas Hurdle
- Tingle Creek Chase
- Ascot Chase
As you can imagine, bettors get overly excited about jump racing events, as the addition of obstacles and hurdles on the track adds extra variables that you will need to consider before you can place your bet. These variables include the hurdling capabilities of the horse and the control capabilities of the jockey.
If you want to make your betting experience even more challenging, you are welcome to place a bet on point-to-point racing events, which also fall under the jump racing umbrella. These jump racing events are more focused toward amateurs, which is why betting on point-to-point racing is far more difficult to predict.
Now that you can differentiate between flat racing and jump racing events, let’s take a look at endurance racing.
Endurance races are regarded as the third most popular type of horse race on the planet. These horse racing events have one primary goal in mind — and that’s to test runners to determine how far they can run, or how long they can run, over a specified distance. Most of the endurance races in the United States take place at distances between 50 miles and 100 miles.
Unlike flat racing events or jump racing events, endurance racing events will test the endurance and longevity of a horse on a race track. Therefore, it’s only natural that a bettor will place more focus on the longevity and consistency of a horse over a long distance, as opposed to speed and skill. Some of the most popular endurance racing events from around the world include:
- Tevis Cup
- Mongol Derby
- Italia Endurance Horse Festival
- Brussels Equestrian Endurance Masters
- Royal Windsor Endurance
- FEI World Endurance Championships
- Tordera Endurance
- Madrid Endurance
This horse racing type is obviously not as popular as flat or jump racing, especially when it comes to bettors. The reason for this is that endurance events take way too long to complete, and there’s an endless variety of variables that can easily affect the winner of the race, regardless of how good the horse is on paper.
All horse breeds are welcome to participate in endurance events. However, Arabian horses seem to dominate the field when it comes to endurance races due to their stamina and longevity.
Now that you know more about endurance racing events, let’s move onto harness racing.
Harness racing encompasses horse racing events where the horse is not only responsible for its own weight and the jockey during a race, but also for a two-wheeled lightweight cart, commonly known as a spider or a sulky, which is occupied by the jockey. What’s even more impressive about harness racing events is the fact that each of the runners is required to complete the event at a certain speed. Some of the most popular harness racing events in the world include:
- The Hambletonian
- Little Brown Jug
- Breeders’ Crown
- Gold Cup and Saucer
- The Canadian Pacing Derby
- The Maple Lead Trot
- The Inter Dominion Series
- The Prix d’Amerique
The primary goal in harness racing events is for the horses to trot, or pace at a predetermined speed without breaking their stride. Failure to do so will result in the horse being penalized, meaning it will make its way to the back of the competition and try again. Galloping will also be seen as a violation, which will result in a penalty being issued to the horse as well.
Harness racing in North America is restricted to only standardbred horses, while harness racing events in Europe can feature Russian and French horses, as well as a mixed ancestry of multiple breeds.
Now that you have a better understanding of harness racing, let’s discover quarter horse racing events.
Quarter horse racing
A quarter horse, or American quarter horse, is essentially a horse breed from America. The horses that participate in quarter horse racing events excel in speed, especially over short distances that take place on straightaway courses. These events originally took place over a quarter of a mile, which is also where the name of the event comes from.
Quarter horse racing was first introduced by the settlers in Virginia after the establishment of Jamestown in 1607. Some of the most popular quarter horse racing events include:
- Kansas Futurity
- Rainbow Futurity
- All-American Futurity
- Lee Berwick Futurity
The speed and talent required in quarter horse racing is the primary reason why bettors from around the world find these racing events so fascinating. A quarter horse needs to have a wide range of distinguishing features to participate in such a racing event, including rounded hindquarters, a broad chest, a well-muscled body, a short, refined head, and incredible speed across short distances.
Quarter horses are not only popular in quarter horse racing but also make a name for themselves in horse shows and rodeos.
Next on our list is maiden racing …
Maiden racing is specifically designed for horses that have yet to win their very first race. All horses that have yet to win a race in their careers are known as maidens. Maiden racing events occur with various conditions and over a range of distances, with eligibility for the races based on the age and the sex of the horse.
Maiden racing is considered the lowest class level in horse racing, and races can be based on weight for age, set weights or even handicaps. Maiden races can also be considered the entry point for a horse to start his or her racing career. Maiden special weight races in the United States rank above claiming races, which are essentially races where the horse can be bought or claimed by another owner.
When a horse wins a maiden race, it’s not considered a major achievement. However, it does provide a significant start in the horse’s racing career. A maiden horse will remain a maiden up until the day it finally wins a horse racing event. Betting on maiden races is extremely unpredictable and nearly impossible to get right, as there is not a lot of information to go on.
Allowance, claiming and selling racing
Once you start exploring the wide variety of horse racing types in the industry, you will eventually stumble across horse racing events that are more focused around selling a horse that participates in a race as opposed to races that are purely based on profits.
These racing events are known as claiming races, and although they will never be considered extremely popular in the horse racing community, they do offer the perfect chance to showcase horses that can be purchased. In claiming racing events, each horse is for sale for more or less the same price. However, the price will only be valid up until the start of the race, allowing the race to basically be even.
Then, you will also find allowance racing events. These horse racing events are composed of runners that will participate for a higher purse when compared to a maiden race. The conditions for these horse racing events usually involve non-winners and are often for horses that managed to break maiden but are not quite ready for stakes racing as of yet.
Another type of horse race that is not so popular among bettors is called selling racing. These racing events essentially see the winner of the race be put up for auctioning immediately.
Now that you understand allowance racing, claiming racing and selling racing, let’s take a closer look at stakes racing.
After a maiden horse has managed to prove its worth by winning a maiden racing event, it is eligible to participate in events known as stakes racing. These horse racing events are regarded as one of the highest levels that you can participate in within the horse racing industry and impress with some truly astonishing purses, as well.
Some of the best owners, trainers, jockeys and horses can be found in stakes racing events. Most of the stakes racing events also act as a stepping stone for horses to eventually reach the most prestigious and lucrative horse racing events from across the globe. To participate in the most popular global horse racing events, you will first need to climb a grueling and demanding ladder to eventually reach the top. This is where stakes racing comes into play, where you’ll see the average horse participate in numerous stakes races. Stakes racing events only take place on flat surfaces, including turf, grass and dirt.
Now that you understand stakes racing, let’s finish with graded stakes racing events.
Graded stakes racing
The most prestigious horse racing events in the world are graded stakes racing events. While stakes racing events will come with restrictions, you will find that graded stakes racing events won’t have any restrictions, other than the gender and the age of the horse. You will notice that graded stakes racing events are divided into three grades: Grade III, Grade II and Grade I, which is the highest caliber of graded stakes racing.
A horse racing event can only be considered a grades stakes event if the purse amount is at least $75,000. For a Grade III event, the purse needs to be $100,000. For a Grade II event, the purse needs to be at least $200,000, and for a Grade I event, the purse needs to be a minimum of $300,000. Other factors that determine whether a horse racing event can be a graded stakes event includes longevity of the race, restrictions that only affect the age and sex of the horse, drug testing that is controlled by a governmental authority and medication restrictions.