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Horse racing: What is flat racing?

There are 59 horse racing tracks in Britain; 17 of which host flat meetings while 24 host jump races.
Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images

Flat racing is a form of horse racing which is run over a level track at a predetermined distance. The season stretches across the summer months, and offers higher prize money than jump racing. This type of thoroughbred horse racing is a test of speed, stamina, and the skill of the jockey to navigate against a field of competing runners and to encourage his horse to run faster.

Meetings can take place on a natural grass surface (turf) or on a synthetic surface (all-weather). However, elite trainers, owners, and jockeys have traditionally preferred competing on turf. Turf can easily be turned to muddy grounds if wet weather and rainfall pound the racecourse, and such conditions can significantly affect the outcome of the race.

The flat races in Great Britain are run over a variety of distances. Sprints are 5, 6 or 7 furlong races (with 1 furlong totaling 220 yards). A middle distance race stretches from 1 mile to 1 mile 4 furlongs. A stayers race is 1 mile 6 furlongs to 2 miles.

Class 1 races are the top level of flat racing. The horses carry weights which are laid down by the conditions attached to the race. The sex, age, or track record of the runner can all affect the amount of weight that the horse has to carry in order to give other runners a chance to win.

There are also Class 2 to 7 races, otherwise known as Handicaps. In Handicap races, an official handicapper gives horses a rating according to their ability. This rating affects the weight that the horse has to carry in the race so that other horses have a chance to win.

There are conditions races and handicaps. Conditions races are classified into the following races: Group 1 (classics and other races of major international importance), Group 2 (less important international races), and Group 3 (domestic races). Listed races have less prestige than the group races but are still more important than handicaps. Handicap races are where horses are given a different weight to carry according to their ability.

Classic races are a series of horse races run over the flat and is held once each year. There are five Classic races which are the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, 1,000 Guineas Stakes, Epsom Oaks, Epsom Derby, and the St. Leger Stakes.

There are 59 horse racing tracks in Britain; 17 of which host flat meetings while 24 host jump races. A total of 18 tracks can host both flat and jump competitions. The highest quality flat races are Group 1, 2, and 3 races while jump races are called Graded Races.

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