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Horse Racing Beginners Guide
Horse racing is divided into two codes. Flat Racing and National Hunt Racing. Flat Racing as the term explains does not involve any jumps. National hunt however consists of steeplechase fences and hurdles (smaller than fences). Only flat racing can be run on an all weather courses.
Flat Racing,Types of Race
A Maiden Race. For horses that have not won a flat race. A Handicap. Horses carry different weights to give each horse the same chance of winning in theory!
A Group Race. Top of the tree including the classics, the Derby being one of them.
Listed Races. Very good races. One step below group races.
Condition & Stake Races. A race where horses may carry different weights depending on the age,sex and how many races the horse has won. Note this is not the same as a handicap. Some races can be restricted to single sex runners (not the jockeys).
Selling Races. The winner of these races is put up for public auction in the winners enclosure. If you are a spectator then don’t wave to a friend or you may have to take the horse home with you.
Claiming Races. The winner of these races is basically up for sale with a price tag attached. Often, the horses weights will depend on the amount of money required to claim (buy) the horse.
Nursery Handicaps. This is nothing to do with child jockeys but is a handicap race for 2 year old horses only.
Flat Racing nearly always begins in starting stalls it’s very rare to see a flag start
National Hunt Race Types
A Novice Hurdle. For horses that start the season having not won a hurdle race. The winner of a novice hurdle will carry a weight penalty next time it runs in a novice hurdle.
A Maiden Hurdle. Only allows horses that have not already won a hurdle race. Both these type of races can involve horses that could have won a flat race, a steeplechase, a national hunt flat race or a point to point.
Handicap Hurdle. Horses again carrying different weights. In hurdle races sometimes the weight can make a big difference especially if the ground is heavy.
Graded Hurdle. Some hurdle races carry certain conditions that affects the weight that each horse carries. Even at the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham, a female horse will carry less weight than a male. (they don’t however hold the stable door open for them).
Steeplechase. The name steeplechase derives from a race that happened many years ago, when some people held a horse race in between two churches. The horses jumped anything that appeared to be in the way as they ran from one to steeple to another hence the name steeplechase.
Novice or Beginners. Chase For horses that start the season having not won a steeplechase. A Maiden Chase For horses that have never won a steeplechase except a point to point. However, they may have already won a hurdle or flat race.
Handicap Chases. we all know the most famous Handicap Chase in the world. The Grand National with horses carrying different weights to give each horse the same chance of winning.
Condition Chases. Horses may carry different weights but not as in a Handicap. The weights can vary depending on age, sex and previous form.
National Hunt Flat Race. Sometimes called a ‘bumper’. For horses starting out that have not run in any race except a national hunt flat race or a point to point.
A Hunter Chase. For horses that also have experience of running with a countryside hunt. Some horses in this category have been successful steeplechasers in their time.
Point to Point. These races are run but not under the ‘rules of racing’. Runners in these races are often participants of a countryside hunt and these races tend to attract the same clientèle. Some potential winners are often discovered at a local point to point.
National Hunt races start with a tape across the track or a flag in point to point races.
All races whether flat or national hunt have a class rating (1 being the best races). This is found at the top of the race card.
· A Male Horse is a Colt until its 5th birthday when it becomes a Horse.
· A Female Horse is a Filly until its 5th birthday when she becomes a Mare.
· A Gelding is a Male Horse that has been castrated.
· All horses born in the Northern Hemisphere have an official birthday on 1st January.
Therefore, if you are a breeder then the sooner the horse is born after the 1st January the better. (not before as they automatically become a year older).
· Racehorses can race at 2 years old. Often called Juvenile Races.