What is flat racing?

Flat horse racing - UK horses racing on grass

Flat racing is what most non-racing fans consider to be horse racing. Flat racing is run on a fixed flat course. Unlike steeple chase racing, it doesn’t involve obstacles and is purely concerned with first past the post amongst a group of horses (The field). Flat racing is designed to test the stamina of the horse and jockey alongside the riding skill of the jokey. That may sound a bit of a simple test, but there is more to it than that.

Sometimes it’s all about the handicap

Running a field of randomly collected horses would give some horses a big advantage. Therefore, just like in the boxing field, there are multiple categories that are mainly based around horses’ weight and age. This is why the birth date of the racing horse is so important because, up to a point, the stronger the horse, the higher the likelihood of winning. Therefore to balance everything out, the flat races are sub-categorised into one of several types.

Not all races have handicaps. It depends on the classification of the horse. There are seven possible classifications of horse (from class 1 – elite) to class 7. The class of a horse is determined by the official rating. Classes 1 to 3 are considered professional racing horses. More on that can be found here. Not all races have a handicap, however. The ones that do will usually be noted in the name of the race.

Black and white image of two horses racing to represent flat racing
Photo by Pardeep Bhakar on Unsplash

There are different types of flat racing

There are many flat racing types. Below is a small example:

  • Group and listed races – This is as it says on the tin; it’s about horses that have been graded to be able to run in specific classifications of races.
  • Maidens – Races for horses that have not yet won a race.
  • Apprentice – A race for apprentice jockeys only.

Handicaps – As mentioned above, handicaps work to help ensure fairness across the field by giving horses weightings based on several factors. Officials called “Handicappers” decide which horses can enter which race based on physical properties. Doing this ensures a more balanced and fair race. This website provides more in-depth information on the handicapping system.

Flat racing distance

Track distances vary wildly and can be anywhere from 400 Metres to 2.5 miles. A common distance is 1 mile. One of the most high-profile flat races is Royal Ascot, held every year in the town of Ascot itself. Ascot is also seen as the racing social event of the year with prizes given out to members of the public. A highly sort after prize is “Best dressed” for Ladies day, widely considered to be an integral part of the Ascot calendar.

Feature image: Image by annca from Pixabay

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