Flat racing is a term commonly used to denote a form of Thoroughbred horse racing which is run over a level track at a predetermined distance. It differs from steeplechase racing over hurdles. The race is a test of speed, stamina and the skill of the jockey in determining by when he/she choses to hold the horse back or to make the horse work harder.
The flat races in Great Britain are run over a variety of distances from five furlongs (1,006 m) to over two miles (3,219 m) and are generally called sprints, middle distance or stayers races.
Racing takes place on a natural grass surface (turf) or on a synthetic surface (all-weather). Racing in Europe is generally on turf, while in the United States and Canada, the more important races are on dirt or all-weather. Indeed, nearly all North American races are flat races, as steeplechase racing is very infrequent and largely confined to short, specialized race meets. There, the term "flat racing" is rarely used, as the form is so predominant.
In Europe, the two most powerful "teams" are Coolmore Stud farm, most of whose horses are trained by Aidan O'Brien in County Tipperary in Ireland and owned by John Magnier and/or Michael Tabor, and the United Arab Emirates based Godolphin stables, owned by the Sheikh Mohammed and his brothers but based during the summer in Newmarket, England.
Flat racing in Great Britain
In Great Britain, (and the majority of Europe) flat racing is split into two distinctive bands, conditions races and handicaps.
- Conditions races are further split into:
- Pattern races
- Group 1 - (Classics and other races of major international importance)
- Pattern races
- Group 2 - (less important international races)
- Group 3 - (primarily domestic races)
- Listed races - have less prestige than the group races but are still more important than handicaps.
- Handicap races - where the Jockey Club official handicapper gives horses a different weight to carry according to their ability, are the bread and butter daily races although some of these are also quite prestigious.
Classic Races - In British horse racing, The Classics are a series of horse races run over the flat (i.e. without jumps). Each classic is run once each year and is restricted to horses that are three years old. There are five Classic races:
- britishhorseracing.com – "Major flat racing events".