Types of Track Races
- A handicap race is one in which the runners have been "handicapped" by carrying more weight, according to their performance in other races. Theoretically, all horses have a chance of being competitive in a race that is correctly handicapped. Examples include the Grand National, the Cambridgeshire Handicap, the Donn Handicap, the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Auckland Cup, the Easter Handicap, the Caulfield Cup, and the Melbourne Cup. Handicap Race
- Graded stakes races in the United States and Canada, or conditions races as they are referred to in England and France, are higher-class races for bigger prizes. They often involve competitors that belong to the same gender, age and class. These races may, though, be"weight-for-age," with weights adjusted only according to age, and also there are "set weights" where all horses carry the same weight. Furthermore, there are "conditions" races, in which horses carry weights that are set by conditions, such as having won a certain number of races, or races of a certain value. Examples of a stakes/conditions race are the Breeders' Cup races,the Dubai World Cup, the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, the 1,000 Guineas Stakes, the Epsom Derby, the Epsom Oaks, the St. Leger Stakes, the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, the Travers Stakes, and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. Graded Stakes Races
- A maiden race is one in which the runners have never won a race. Maiden races can be among horses of many different age groups. It is similar to a stakes race in the respect that horses all carry similar weights and there are no handicapped "penalties." This is the primary method for racing a 2 year old for the first time, although only against other 2 year olds. Three year olds also only race against their own age in maiden races early in the year.
- An allowance race is one in which the runners run for a higher purse than in a maiden race. These races usually involve conditions such as "non-winner of three lifetime." They usually are for a horse which has broken its maiden but is not ready for stakes company.
- A claiming race is one in which the horses are all for sale for more or less the same price (the "claiming price") up until shortly before the race. The intent of this is to even the race; if a better-than-class horse is entered (with the expectation of an easy purse win), it might be lost for the claiming price, which is likely less than the horse is worth. Someone may wish to claim a horse if they think the horse has not been trained to its fullest potential under another trainer. If a horse is purchased, a track official tags it after the race, and it goes to its new owner. Claiming Race
A Note: Claiming races literally have the horses running for sale. Price is set before the race, based on the quality of horse, cost usually ranging from $4,000-$150,000, depending on the track. Veterinarians cannot inspect the horses beforehand.
- An optional claiming race is a hybrid of allowance and claiming race, developed to increase field sizes. A horse who does not fit the conditions can still "run for the tag," i.e., be run conditional on also being offered for sale.
- Flat racing - Flat races can be run under varying distances and on different terms. Historically, the major flat racing countries were Australia, England, Ireland, France and the United States, but other centers, such as Japan or Dubai, have emerged in recent decades. Some countries and regions have a long tradition as major breeding centers, namely Ireland and Kentucky. In Europe and Australia, virtually all major races are run on turf (grass) courses, while in the United States dirt surfaces (or, lately, artificial surfaces such as Polytrack) are prevalent. In South America and Asia, both surface types are common. Flat Racing
- Jump racing (National Hunt Racing, Steeplechasing) - Jumping races and steeplechases, called National Hunt racing in the United Kingdom and Ireland, are run over long distances, usually from two miles (3,200 m) up to four and a half miles (7,200 m), and horses carry more weight. Novice jumping races involve horses that are starting out a jumping career, including horses that previously were trained in flat racing. National Hunt racing is distinguished between hurdles races and chases: the former are run over low obstacles and the latter over larger fences that are much more difficult to jump. National Hunt races are started by flag, which means that horses line up at the start behind a tape. Jump racing is popular in the UK, Ireland, France and parts of Central Europe, but only a minor sport or completely unknown in most other regions of the world.
- Prize money is also distributed, on a sliding scale, to those finishing in the first few places.
- Flat races - Generally are distances from 5 to 12 furlongs. A furlong is one eighth of a mile or 0.2 km