Types of Horse Racing

Some people may think that all horse races are the same, but horse racing is actually quite a varied sport. It goes back hundreds of years and it has evolved significantly throughout its history. These days racing takes place in a number of different formats with a variety of rules and regulations. You don’t need to follow them all to get involved with horse racing betting, but it doesn’t hurt to know a little bit about them.

Flat racing and jump racing are the two most common forms and it’s these that generally attract the most betting interest. You should really be familiar with these two if you’re going to bet on horse racing so we have explained a little bit more about each of them below. We have also provided a few details on some of the other forms too, such as harness racing and quarter horse racing.

Flat Racing

This is the most widely used format for horse racing across the world. Many of the oldest and most famous races are run on the flat, along with several newer ones. There is an extensive program of flat races in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and many other regions too. As you can probably guess from the name, this form of racing takes place on a flat surface without any jumps or hurdles.

Flat racing is typically for Thoroughbred horses and can be run on a few different surfaces. Turf is the most traditional but dirt tracks are also very common. Synthetic surfaces are used at some racecourses too, particularly in the UK where bad weather can often result in race meetings being cancelled. There are four racecourses in the UK that use synthetic surfaces, which are also known as all-weather tracks. Lingfield Park, Kempton Park and Southwell have them in addition to a turf track while Wolverhampton has only a synthetic track.

Jump Racing

This type of racing again mostly features Thoroughbred horses, and is considerably more dangerous than flat racing due to the obstacles that horses have to jump over. These obstacles can be hurdles, fences or ditches. The increased risks have led to it being mainly stopped in some countries, such as Australia for example. It’s still popular in the UK, Ireland and France though and also takes place in the US, where it’s known as steeplechasing.

In the UK and Ireland it’s formally known as National Hunt racing and there are two codes – hurdles and steeplechases. In hurdles the obstacles have to be over three and half foot high and a race must be at least two miles longs. In steeplechases the obstacles can include plain fences, open ditches or water jumps.

Endurance Riding

Endurance riding is basically racing over much longer distances. Any breed of horse can take part in these races although it’s Arabian horses that are the most commonly used because of their natural stamina. This form of racing is nowhere near as popular as the two already mentioned but it is a sport in its own right, recognized by the International Federation for Equestrian Sports (FEI). It began as a sport in the US in 1955 and was introduced in Europe a few years later.

Endurance races tend to be either 50 or 100 miles long, although they can technically be any distance at all. There are much longer races too which take place over multiple days. Exact rules vary depending on whereabouts in the world they are being run but the basic principle is largely the same in that the winning horse is the first one to cross the finish line. Horses will usually have to stop at specified points during a race so that they can be checked out by a veterinarian and passed as fit to continue.

Quarter Horse Racing

Quarter horse racing is pretty much limited to the United States, where it has been taking place since the 1940s. Races are run over short distances, usually a quarter of a mile. Competing horses are of the American Quarter Horses breed and these are known for their sprinting qualities. As such, the races are high speed and often produce very close finishes,

Harness Racing

Harness racing is something a bit different, as it involves horses pulling a sulky. This is a two wheeled cart which is harnessed to competing horses for races. This is a reasonably popular sport and takes place in several regions including Australia, America, and parts of Europe. It’s particularly popular in Canada as well. Harness races can be one of two types – trot races and pace races – and usually features Standardbred horses.

Point to Point Racing

Point to point racing takes place in the UK and Ireland and is an amateur form of steeplechasing. Races generally feature Thoroughbred horses which are either getting ready to compete at National Hunt level or ones that have already raced at that level and are getting towards retirement. Point to point races don’t usually get televised but they do regularly attract large crowds.


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