Winning Distances In Horse Racing

When looking to see how far a horse wins a race then this is known as the winning distance.

The winning distances in horse racing are the distance between the winning horse and the second-placed horse.

The betting market on a national hunt race could include the bet of a horse winning by a certain distance.

Punters at the Cheltenham Festival enjoy betting on the widest winning distances in Cheltenham horse racing results.

Every racecard of results includes the times and winning measurements of every racehorse participating.

Find out more about winning distances in horse racing:

Winning Distances in Horse Racing

How are Winning Distances Measured in Horse Racing?

A length is the standard measure for winning margins in horse racing.

That is straightforward in a finish where one horse is one length ahead of its nearest rival. However, there is a formula for calculating how far a horse is beaten based on time and not how far it is behind when the winner crosses the line.

It is a lengths-per-second (LPS) formula that incorporates factors such as flat or jumps and the prevailing ground conditions.

An official time is recorded for each horse at the point at which its nose hits the finishing line and these are converted into distances.

In terms of the LPS table (lengths per second), a nose = 0.05 of a length and a short-head – 0.1 of a length.

In 2020, the British Horseracing Association introduced six new official winning distances. The quarter of a length margin was extended up to five lengths with half a length margins extended up to ten lengths. These margins had previously stopped at four and five lengths respectively. Beyond 10 lengths all measures are in lengths only.

This was capped at 12 lengths on the flat up to 30 lengths over jumps with anything over that being bracketed as “a distance”.

In 2009 the BHA extended it to a maximum 99 lengths and this was increased to 200 lengths in 2018.

Winning Margins in Horse Racing

Winning distances in horse racing results are:

1. Dead-Heat

A dead-heat is declared if the judge is unable to separate two horses after a photo finish.

2. Nose

A nose is the shortest winning margin.

A nose is 0.05 of a length winning distance.

The abbreviation for a nose winning distance is nse.

A nose in horse racing distances is anywhere on the horse’s nostril, so can be as little as 1000th of a second, a couple of millimetres up to about 3 inches.

3. Short-head

A short head is 0.1 of a length winning margin.

The abbreviation for a short head winning distance is sh.

4. Head

A head is 0.2 of a length winning margin.

The abbreviation for a head winning distance is hd.

5. Neck

The abbreviation for a neck winning distance is nk.

A neck is 0.25 of a length winning margin.

A neck in terms of distance is also known as a 1/4 quarter of a length.

6. 1/2 a length (half a length)

The abbreviation for half a length winning distance is 1/2.

Half a length is 0.5 of a length winning margin.

7. 1 length

The abbreviation for half a length winning distance is l.

The above are the typical winning distances in horse racing results

Betting on Winning Margins and Horse Racing Distances

Bookmakers and the best horse racing betting sites do have special markets on winning distances, particularly when there is an odds-on favourite for a big race.

This is primarily to try to add some extra interest for punters who might be reluctant to bet at very short prices.

There are also spread betting markets on winning distances, including overall winning distances for meetings i.e. aggregate winning distance overall races on the card.

Biggest Winning Distances in Racing

Nothing catches the eye more than a horse winning by a wide margin.

Shergar’s record 10 length winning margin in the 1981 Derby still stands although Snowfall smashed the record in the Epsom Oaks when winning by 16 lengths in 2021.

St Jovite, the runner-up to Dr Devious in 1992 Epsom Derby, came out and won the Irish Derby by 12 lengths. Turtle Island won the 1994 Irish 2000 Guineas by 15 lengths and Septimus won the 2008 Irish St Leger by 13 lengths. Other wide margin Group 1 victories that will live long in the memory include Hawk Wing (2003 Lockinge Stakes) and Frankel (2012 Queen Anne Stakes).

Perhaps the most famous wide-margin victory in the history of racing is Secretariat in the 1972 Belmont Stakes. The brilliant chestnut won by a remarkable 31 lengths, posting a race record time that still stands to this day.

Distances in a national hunt race are often wide.

Total winning distances often refers to the finishing positions of all the horses in a race and how far they are respectively behind the horse in front of them.

Popular Questions

What does 2 lengths mean in horse racing?

In horse racing, you will hear commentators that a horse has won by two lengths in distance.

Winning by 2 lengths means the horse that has won the racing event is two full-sized lengths of a horse in front of second place.

The first length of any winning margin is always the length of the winning horse, with any further lengths measured by the gap between the tail of the winner and the nose of the runner-up.

How long is a length in horse racing?

On average a length of a racehorse in horse racing is 2.5 metres (8 to 9 feet).

The measurement of elapsed time as the racehorses cross the line and can vary on the size of the horse and its stride pattern.

How many lengths is 1 second in horse racing?

When a horse finishes the race at 30mph it is covering 13.4 metres per second (5.36 lengths per second).

While if a slower racehorse finishes the race at 15mph it is covering 6.7 metres per second (10.72 lengths per second).

The calculation is metres per second divided by 2.5 metres (average length of a horse).

Summary of Winning Distances in Horse Races and Horse Racing Distances Explained

Winning distances in horse racing although using old fashioned terms (such as head, length, distance etc) are now calculated using mathematical formulas. This means that there is consistency across all racecourses in the UK and horse racing results.

If you enjoyed this article don’t forget to check out horse racing blog where we cover a whole range of racing topics.

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As the Founder of British Racecourses, I have a life-long passion for horse racing and have loved the sport as long as I can remember. I am also a keen racehorse owner and have worked in the gambling industry for several years. I set up British Racecourses with the desire to share my passion for racing with other like-minded people.