Types of Horse Races

Both flat and jumps racing have a variety of race types hwich will have an affect on the class of horse running and also on betting terms.

If you are placing bets on horse races, then it is so important to have even the slightest understanding of the race types that you are betting on. Below we try to help.

National Hunt Racing

To put it simply, National Hunt racing is any racing that takes place over jumps, although there are also National Hunt flat races for young horses to race in before hurdling. The UK and Ireland host more national unt races than any other countries around the world.

Hurdles and Chase (steeplechase) races are different in that hurdles are much smaller and often hurdlers will go on to become chaasers as they gain experience over the smaller obstacles. However, some horses remain over hurdles for their entire career.

National Hunt races are started from a standing start with tape across the track that a starter manually activates to lift once they are happy that the horses have lined up correctly.

National hunt race types

Types of National Hunt Races

There are 3 race types in National Hunt (Jumps) racing:

  • Hurdle Races – small jumps obstacles that are easier and safer to jump and can be knocked over
  • Chase (Steeplechase) Races large jumps obstacles that are harder to jump and will not be knocked over.
  • National Hunt Flat (Bumper) Races – There are no obstacles to jump in these races and are for beginners prior to their jumping career starting

Race types within these 3 spheres:

  • Maiden – For horses that have never won a race.
  • Juvenile –  For horses aged 3 (October – December) or 4 (January to April).
  • Novices’  – For horses who hadn’t won a prior to the season commencing. Once a horse has won a novice race, they they can continue to run in them but will carry additional weight.
  • Handicap – Horses have additional weight to carry based on their ability. The more races won the more weight to carry. In theory the idea of a handicap is that all the horses are equal and could finish in a line.
  • Graded – The best class of race; Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3 races are the best races there are, with Grade 1 being the highest level of race.
  • Cross Country – There aren’t many of these races “under rules” during the racing year. The most popular is at Cheltenham where they have a cross country course in the middle on the normal course.
  • Hunters’ Chase – Horses can only run in these races if the horse has hunted for at least 4 days before the start of the year. You will usually see different trainers running horses in these races.

Flat Racing

Pretty self explanatory! Yes you guessed it. Horses that race on a flat surface with no obstacles to jump! This is where the money is. More prestigious than National Hunt racing and big prize money on offer at the big race meetings all over the world.

Unlike in National Hunt racing there are not 3 different categories. The flat is the flat!

Flat races start with all the horses entered into stalls and they are activated so that all of the stalls open at exactly the same time. Many races are won or lost at the start!

flat racing

Types of Flat Races

  • Maiden – As with the National Hunt races, these are for horses that are yet to win a race.
  • Novice – For horses yet to win more than 2 races
  • Seller (Selling race) The winner of this type of race can be sold after, usually by auction
  • Claimer (Claiming race) – Any of the horses in these races can be “claimed” before the race has been run.
  • Handicap – The same as in National Hunt racing, each horse is allocated a handicap rating which is used to set the weights.
  • Nursery – a race for 2 year olds only.
  • Group Races – In the same way as Graded races in jumps racing, these are the top races for the best horses. Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3 races. Group 1 is the highest grade of race in the world.
  • Auction Races – Llimited to horses that have certain criteria based around their auction price and other factors.