What Are The Different Types of Horse Racing?


All year round we pay much attention to the horse races, and at the moment many people are seeking out the current Preakness Stakes horse odds. But many more races go on around the world other than just the Triple Crown races. 

There are actually many races, and flat races like the Preakness Stakes are far from being the only races to occur. There are actually many types of races that horses participate in. 

We often forget to realize that races like this take place across the world, and although flat races are the most common, there are plenty of other races as well! 

Such as cart racing, in which standard bred horses pace pulling a cart with a jockey in it, racing to win. You get jump races, handicaps, and more. 

There are so many races, so… what are they all?

Different Types Of Races

While there are two most recognized races that occur regularly there are plenty of others as well, we will look into as many as possible. 

Flat Races

Flat racing is the one we are most accustomed to, it is exactly as the name suggests. These races are done on level, and are run over a predetermined distance, this can be anywhere from 5 furlongs to 2 miles and 4 furlongs. 

It is the most lucrative race there is, and it has the most prize money available. Flat racing is also the most expensive of the breeding businesses as well. 

There are fewer types of races available on the flat, simply because there are not 3 or more disciplines in this sphere. There are a few main types of races available

There are maiden races for horses who are yet to win a race. There are novice races for those who haven’t won any more than 2 races. You also get claiming races which have the horses sold after the races. 

There are handicap flats as well, in which every horse is given a handicap to allow for equality in the races. Nursery if for 2-year-old horses only, groups which are for the top races for the best horses, and also auction races. 

Steeplechases/ National Hunt

There are also steeplechases/ national hunt races as well, they encompass any race that is done over hurdles/ steeplechase fences. It is not popular worldwide however and its main audience is in the UK and Ireland. 

Horses need to jump over a particular amount of obstacles, including fences and hurdles, and every race is done over 1 mile and 7 furlongs or more. 

A hurdles race is usually done by the younger horses, they then go on to do steeple chasing after. However, some horses may only do hurdles for a little while before they go on to steeplechasing. Some will never go over fences. 

The three types of national hunt races include; hurdles, steeplechases, and national hunt flat races. 

Group races

There are also group races, these races are some of the best known ones, they will be divided into groups 1 through 3, and they will usually be restricted to age groups, or even gender, and they will be spread out across the year to form a program of races over multiple distances and many courses.

Group 1 races are the best and are highlight events, they test the horses, and each horse will have a handicap. 

2 and 3 group horses are still very important, although they are a step or so below the very top tier in their quality. These races will have handicaps as well, however, there are also penalties to make these races more intense. 

Handicap races

Most horses will compete in a handicap race at some point. Every horse in a race is assessed after a race by a team, and will receive a rating, the rating goes up if they run very well, but it will drop if they do not. 

In handicap racing, every horse will be given a weight based on how they rate. If a horse is rated 90 they will carry 9 stone and 8 pounds, a horse rated 88 carries 9 stone and 6 pounds. 

The top rating a horse can have is 110, aside to this, they may need to compete in group/listed races, some handicaps can be very important in some of the most historic races there have been. 

Stakes Racing 

Stakes races are also known as being grade 1 and grade 2 races,  this is a type of thoroughbred face and is usually competed in by horses who are 3 years old or older. 

Races will often be run at major tracks and draw in huge crowds, and have big purses. Races like this include Belmont Stakes, Saratoga, Churchill Downs, Santa Anita and more. 

These races are a type of racing that offers the absolute biggest prize for the winners, hence the term ‘stake’, as this refers to the money at stake in the races. 

A majority of major tracks will host a minimum of two stake races per season, that being said, a few of the tracks have featured stakes races regularly.  


There are many races that are held for horses, and different horses and different breeds often participate in different races across the world. There is no one race that is better than the others however, flat racing is the most popular of all of them. 


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