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Horse Racing Terminology Part 1: Types of Horse Races

New to the world of horse racing betting?  With so many horse racing festivals taking place every year, this is a great time to start learning about different types of horse racing wagers as well as the different types of horse races you can bet on.  In part 1 of our Horse Racing Terminology guide, I will introduce you to these races.  In part 2, I will teach you some useful terminology about horses classifications.


Types of Horse Races

  • Flat racing:  In this type of race, horses gallop around an oval track or from one point to another along a straight track.
  • Jump racing:  This type of racing is sometimes known as Steeple-chasing or National Hunt racing.  In jump races, horses must not only run from one point to another or around a track, but also leap over obstacles.
  • Harness racing:  This is a less common type of race where horses trot or pace, pulling a driver behind them in a lightweight cart called a sulky.
  • Endurance racing:  This is a long-distance race across real terrain, anywhere from 25 to 100 miles.
  • Derby:  This is a race specifically for three-year-old horses (not necessarily fillies, that is an oaks race).
  • Distaff:  Only female horses race in a distaff.
  • Handicap:  This is a stakes race where different weights are assigned and carried by the horses based on the race’s conditions.
  • Maiden:  This type of race is specifically for horses that haven’t won races in the past.
  • Marathon:  This is a race which runs from a distance of 1 ¼ mile or longer (not necessarily an endurance race).
  • Oaks:  This is a race specifically for three-year-old fillies. 
  • Route:  This is a race which is a mile or longer.
  • Sprint:  This is a race which is shorter than a mile.
  • Claiming:  With this type of race, the horses have all been sold at a predetermined price before they run.  After the race has been run, the new owners have control of them, but not before.
  • Stakes:  This is a race for horses deemed to be of the highest quality.


Now you should be in a better position to understand the types of races at various horse racing festivals, e.g. the Cheltenham, as well as other important horse racing events throughout the year.  You will have a much easier time knowing whether to enter into a wager when you can tell at a glance what type of event you will be participating in.  You might bet on a particular horse during a sprint that you would never consider betting on in a marathon, for example.  And there may be certain types of races that you become an expert on, and others that you tend to avoid betting on altogether.  In our next installment (Part 2), I will teach you more about thoroughbred classifications, which will give you a better overall understanding of the horses you are wagering on.


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