Types of Horse Races Explained

Types of Races Explained

Types for Horse RacingThere are several different types of horse races as well as ways to bet on horse races, ranging from the lowest selling race up to Group 1 events for the best horses in training. In order to gain a good understanding of the sport, it is well worth familiarising yourself with these races so that you can discover where potential profits may lie. Most professional punters restrict themselves to certain types of races when betting on horse races, often better class events where the form tends to be more reliable.

Flat Racing

Maiden Races

As the name suggests, maiden races are restricted to horses that are yet to win a race. Until a racehorse has chalked up that first victory they remain a maiden. At the start of a new season these races attract huge fields as previously unraced three-year-olds get their first experience on the racecourse. It must not be assumed that maiden races are necessarily for bad horses as this is the starting point for even the best colts and fillies.

Three-year-old maiden races can actually be well worth studying in detail as you can spot horses that are obviously “green” and will improve next time. Some will run too freely early on whilst others will take a long time to understand what is required of them before running on strongly at the finish. These races are a vital part of a racehorse’s education and maidens run at courses such as Newmarket and Newbury are a valuable source of certain future winners. A horse can go into handicap company without winning a race but most trainers like them to break their duck before planning their next target.

Two-year-old maiden races put an even greater emphasis on experience, particularly early in the season. There will be some very fast early two-year-olds that may have limited ability but know their trade. They can quickly chalk up some victories before the big stables start to race their better class of juvenile. At the back end of the season, many trainers like to get at least one race into their two-year-olds as experience for the following year. Again, these races are well worth studying for future reference.

Claiming Races

Claiming races are at the bottom end of the scale where every runner in the race can be bought or “claimed” out of the race. These, along with Selling races, very rarely provide good betting opportunities and should generally be avoided. Horses are not usually put in this grade without a reason, whether it be injury or unreliability. If there are bargains to be had, it is possible to pick up a horse relatively cheaply off the flat that excels when put over hurdles but this area of racing is best left to those “in the know”.

Handicap Races

When a racehorse has shown sufficient form, it is assessed by the official handicapper and given a rating. This is then know as its handicap mark. Three-year-olds in particular are extremely difficult to assess as they can improve drastically during a season. For example, a three-year-old with a staying pedigree may run three times over shorter distances and show very little. If the handicapper gives it a very lenient rating on the form available it may improve markedly when stepped up in distance. Other horses can keep defying the handicapper by winning their races narrowly. It is very difficult to judge how much an easy winner may have in hand so there is a lot of guesswork involved.

By familiarising yourself with the top trainers, you will eventually get an insight into how they like to train their slow developing three-year-olds and you can spot some big-priced handicap winners. It pays to take note of post-race analysis and comments on these improving handicappers. Very often you will find top class horses beginning in handicaps before being raised to Listed or Group class.

Horses to be wary of are those that fall in the void between handicaps and group races. They may run well consistently in handicaps without winning but just fall short of group class. These types of horses are very frustrating for their connections as they are too reliable for their own good. The handicapper will not drop a horse’s rating if it is running consistently well so they are often forced to look abroad for more suitable opportunities.

The hardest races to forecast on the flat are sprint handicaps. Very often the same horses will race against one another week after week, often with a different result. Their particular preferences such as going and distance can be the key or even a draw bias on certain tracks. Generally speaking, the handicaps over a longer distance are easier to solve but most punters have their own particular area of speciality.

Stakes Races

The highest level of races are Stakes races where horses compete on level weights. These races provide the highest level of prize money and a win or placing in Listed or Group class can greatly enhance a horse’s value for breeding purposes. Group 1 races are the highest level in racing and the most prestigious events attract competition from abroad. See all the Group 1 races in U.K. here.

Most experienced punters believe the old adage that the better the class of horse, the more reliable the form. This is born out by statistics with a higher percentage of favourites and second favourites winning at this level than in lower grade races. These races provide the headlines in the sport such as Frankel’s unbeaten 14-race career, the last nine of which were in Group 1 races. Although he never returned at a “working man’s price”, he was officially the highest rated racehorse anywhere in the world.

The English classic races are Group 1 events and there are strong ante-post betting markets on all five races. There are Stakes races over the complete range of distances in order to establish the champion sprinter, miler, middle-distance or staying horse each season.

National Hunt

Bumper Races

National Hunt flat or Bumper races are races without any hurdles or fences for horses that have not run on the flat under rules. They were originally brought in to provide racing experience to the slower developing national hunt-bred horses that are not as precocious as their flat-bred counterparts. These races have proved so popular that they are now recognised with championship races at Cheltenham and Aintree.

Novice Hurdles

Any horse that has not won a hurdle can race in novice company for the entire season, although it will carry a penalty should it prove successful. This includes horses that have been racing on the flat, no matter how successful they were in that particular sphere. These races are very much the schooling ground of future chasers so exceptional hurdlers can often win several races in this grade. There are championship races for novices over different distances at the Cheltenham festival in March.

Handicap Hurdles

Handicap hurdles are very popular with punters with progressive horses from novice events meeting more established rivals. There are some very rich prizes to be won by handicap hurdlers, particularly over two miles, including The Ladbroke Hurdle and the Betfair Handicap Hurdle. The winners of the top handicaps can prove up to championship class.

Graded Hurdles

The very best hurdlers compete in level weights graded races. The top prizes are the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle over 2 miles and the World Hurdle over 3 miles. The class gap between the best handicappers and grade 1 performers is not so distinctive as with flat racing and horses can work their way from handicap class to graded class. There are graded trial races throughout the national hunt season in Britain and Ireland.

Novice Chases

Any horse that has not previously won a chase can compete for that season in novice company. They will carry a penalty should they win a race or more. These races have their own championship races at Cheltenham; the 2-mile Arkle Trophy, the Jewson Chase over 2 and a half miles and the RSA Chase over 3 miles. These races are looked upon as the races to decide the most promising chasers or future stars. In 2012, Sprinter Sacre was so impressive in winning the Arkle Trophy that he was made odds-on favourite to win the Champion Chase in 2013. The longer RSA Chase is regarded as a race for future Gold Cup horses and the 2012 winner Bobs Worth is currently favourite to win chasing’s blue riband event.

Handicap Chases

As with hurdles, handicap chases are hugely popular with the betting public. The Grand National is the most famous horse race in the world and is a handicap for steeplechasers over the extreme distance of four and a half miles. Other popular handicaps are the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury in November and the Welsh National at Chepstow the following month. Handicap chasers tend to be around for a lot longer than their colleagues on the flat and therefore generate a public following. Punters can get to know a horse’s preferences regarding tracks, going and even their best time of year.

Graded Chases

The Cheltenham Gold Cup is the ultimate prize in steeplechasing as it a level weights race as opposed to the handicap system employed for the Grand National. The very best three-mile chasers in Britain and Ireland will compete against each other through the season in various trials before the Gold Cup. The King George VI Chase at Kempton on Boxing Day is another prestigious prize whilst the two-mile division take in races such as the Tingle Creek at Sandown or the Victor Chandler at Ascot. The top prize for two-mile chasers is the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

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