Horse Racing Types

A riveting sport that captures the attention of many bettors is the equestrian, ancient pastime.

Defined as the “sport of the kings” where multiple horses carry their jockeys and compete to win a race.

But have you ever found yourself wondering about the different types of horse races?

You’re in luck!! Saddle up and read on for an in depth guide. 

Different Types of Horse Racing

Casual bettors tend to be unaware of the distinctions between different types of horse racing.

Specifically the classes, which can prevent them from placing their money on a good reliable event/horse.

But, if you’re interested in horse racing and want to invest some time in getting to know the various types of games better, we can help with that.

UK Racing

This includes the types of horse races UK has to offer, familiarising yourself with the horse racing events and how they’re divided into different classes.

shall certainly help you navigate the horse racing betting field a lot better.

In doing so, you will be able to make an informed decision on what the expectations, specs, and penalties are for each competition and whether individual races are a party to a more extensive tournament (such as the Triple Crown).

Please also see our latest tips on horse racing in the UK.

Get in the Know

By the end of this post, you’ll overcome the hurdle of the unknown concerning horse racing contests and be able to confidently recite the different types of races available.

This information will help you pick a winner. Its long overdue!

Be it the names of horse races, flat racing, jump racing handicap races, conditions races, graded races, group races, and so on.

Horse racing contests are distinguished and divided by several elements. So, to begin with, let’s start by defining one of the most popular forms of horse racing – flat racing.

Flat Racing

There are two types of racing, these are flat racing and jump racing.

Ultimately, flat horse racing is depicted by the terrain the horse races on. This is favoured by most nations to be on a flat levelled ground, usually in the form of turf.

However, dirt-tracks are still widely used in countries such as America. Generally, any race track without any jumps or obstacles present is considered to be a flat race.

Flat races tend to take place over a distance from 1 to 3 miles, and the most prestigious of flat races feature thoroughbred horses. The purpose of flat racing is to test the speed and stamina of the horses running.

Handicap And Conditions Races

Predominantly in Europe and the UK, two classifications are taken into consideration for flat racing. These are conditions races and handicap races.

For conditions races, the horses are divided into groups based on their age and gender.

Handicap racing, however, is determined by assessing elements such as a horse’s speed, class, pedigree, and the horse’s jockey.

For instance, horses with a distinct advantage above other horses shall be required to carry extra weight to level out the competition, so to speak. Handicaps are assessed by handicappers who grade a horse between 0 and 90. Following a race, if a horse raced well, their grade will increase.

Triple Crown Races

The most widely circulated races in the UK are the Triple Crown races. The Triple Crown term originated in mid-19th century England, and the spec/restrictions for this sport is as follows;

  • Restricted thoroughbred horse race
  • Three-year-old horses compete in the Triple Crown
  • There are three races in total for the horses/jockeys to participate in
  • Winning all three of the Triple Crown thoroughbred races is an incredible, and rare, accomplishment

Thoroughbred racing is highly regarded in various nations, and many choose to offer their own Triple Crown Series.

For instance, in North America, their Triple Crown is hosted at Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes. The achievement of winning the entire three races for the English Triple Crown has not been succeeded by any horse since Canadian-bred horse Nijinsky, trained in Ireland and rode by jockey Lester Piggot.

The Classic British Flat Races

British classics is used as a collective term to include Britain’s five elite races (often viewed by Royalty).

These are the UK’s highest classes that horses can hope to compete in, in an attempt to win the Triple Crown tournament. The Classic British horse races are defined as group 1 horse races and only use horses that are two or three years old. The Classic British races in order are as follows:

  • 2,000 Guineas Stakes – Takes place at Newmarket racecourse in May and is the first leg of the Triple Crown. This is a one-mile race primarily for 3-year-old colts.
  • 1,000 Guineas Stakes – An almost identical race to the 2000 Guineas, the 1000 race launches the day after 2000 Guineas at the same location Newmarket racecourse. However, the 1000 Guineas caters for 3-year-old and older fillies only. Along with Epsom Oaks and St. Leger Stakes, it forms as part of the Fillies Triple Crown.
  • The Epsom Oaks race takes place in June each year, and it’s a one-mile four-furlong race for 3-year-old fillies to compete in. This race counts as the middle leg of what is referred to as the Fillies Triple Crown.
  • Epsom Derby – One of the most renowned national sporting events, the Epsom Derby race is considered to be the richest race of the five classic races. This is a one-mile four-furlong race for 3-year-old colts and fillies.
  • St. Leger Stakes – Takes place each year at Doncaster racecourse in September as the final race for the Triple Crown competition. The race takes place over one mile for 3-year-old colts and fillies.

Group Races

A popular option for spectators and bettors is the group races (also referred to as graded races). They feature different types of horse races and different horse racing classes.

Group races are a premium level of thoroughbred racing. Each group race is separated into categories, these are group 1, group 2 and group 3. Most of the group races are restricted by age and gender of the horse (for example, colts only). The group races take place at several different racecourses and dates across the racing year to create a programme of racing events.

Group 1

The most important and highly regarded of the group races is the first category group 1 races which test class.

Each horse that competes is required to partake with level weights.

Group 2 and 3

The group 2 and group 3 races are still considered a highlight on the racing calendar, however, fall just below group 1 in consideration of quality.

The weights are calculated similarly to the group 1 tournament. However, to make the race more enjoyable and competitive, penalties (being the horses carry extra weight) are given to fillies and mares that have an advantage above the other horses if they have performed well and won other races at a similar or higher grade.

Listed Racing

For those stuck by the question “what is a listed race?”

Listed races fall below the top tier group races underneath Group 3.

For listed racing, the weight penalties described for the Group 3 types of horse races are applied.

Jump Racing

Jump racing also known as National Hunt (the official name) racing tests the jumping ability of each horse and their stamina.

These types of races are primarily cherished in Ireland, the UK and France, and you may be familiar with the Cheltenham Gold Cup as a highly regarded competition for horses. In comparison to flat horses that are younger and slimmer in shape, horses that compete in jump racing are 3-years-old and above.

Therefore most horses taking part in jump races tend to be more developed in size. Jump racing is separated into 5 divisions;

The National Hunt

Specifically for horses bred for jump racing. For this type of race, there are no obstacles for the horses to jump. The national hunt is viewed as the pillar to begin a horses career, with an eventual lead up to clearing fences and hurdles.

Novice hurdling

For this type of contest, horses that compete in novice hurdling have not previously won a competition before they enter.


For this race, horses are expected to compete over hurdles, whether graded or handicap.

Novice Chasing

Likened to novice hurdling horses for this type of contest have not previously won a hurdle race.


Referred to as racing hurdles, the horses are required to run over the fences as opposed to jumping.

Graded and Listed races

For the national hunt races, jump races use a grading system equal to the flat races. However, in flat racing, they are called group races as mentioned earlier on in this post.

Jump races are instead defined by horse racing grades. For example, Group 1 races in flat races are the same as grade 1 races in jump racing.

The grade 1 races likened to the group 1 races are the highlights on the racing calendar programme that most bettors flock to participate in.

Prestigious jump racing events include the Grand National, the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the Hennessy Gold Cup and King George V1.

Endurance Racing

The speed of the horse isn’t much of a concern for this race. Endurance racing tests the stamina of the horse instead.

However, because of the length of time it takes for horses and jockeys to complete endurance racing, it’s not a popular pick for bettors in comparison to flat racing.

The Mongol Derby is said to be the toughest contest for testing endurance and extends to 1000 km.

Harness Racing

The annual Prix d’Amerique in Paris is the worlds top harness race, with the award amounting to a staggering 1 million euros.

In harness racing, horses carry and pull a jockey on a sulky and are expected to trot the distance at a set speed. Speed is not a driving factor for this race, as horses found to be galloping are penalised.

Maiden Racing

This type of racing is geared towards horses who have never previously won a race.

The conditions and span of the race vary, as do the eligibility requirements. Horses are referred to as maiden up until they win a race.

These races are not overly popular, namely because the competition can be challenging to gauge as there is little information about the horses racing.

Allowance Racing

Allowance racing is for horses that have won a race and are no longer considered as a maiden.

Plus, they must meet the criteria for earnings.

The type of racing offers a larger purse in comparison to claiming races.

Claiming Races

Similar to maiden races, claiming races are considered to be a lower level of horse racing.

Claiming races are initiated so that owners can assess a horse’s value.

Before the claiming race, people can make an offer on and buy the horses they think will perform well.

Stakes Racing

Based on multiple types of contests, the most popular equestrian racing is stake racing.

These races are reserved for the horses that have established themselves and depending on the horse’s performance while competing, may enable them to compete in more significant competitions.

Within stakes racing, there are big prizes on offer, most of which are large lump sums of cash.


With the ins and outs of horse racing explained above, you’re equipped with a detailed explanation concerning the various types of horse racing available to bet on above. And so now you can decide which different types of horse racing pique your interest in anticipation of the next racing season.

Whether it’s horses who carry the sulky during harness racing, those required to jump a hurdle or two, or the elite group 1 flat restricted events.

Keep in Mind

Betting is about enjoying the sport, as much as it is about winning and so, for examples of different forms of horse racing in action, from flat racing, to jump racing take a look at a few YouTube videos to help you decide what equestrian competitions you prefer.

This will help you to decide what type of horse racing you prefer watching the most.

However, bear in mind that some races will offer more information about a horse’s history and capability than others.

For instance, horses featured in extensively mediated events, such as the British Classic races, shall provide you with more details on the racing events, venues, dates and horses for you to bet your money on opposed to other types that are not as favoured.