National Hunt or Flat racing?
There are two types of horse racing – National Hunt and Flat racing.
National Hunt racing
In National Hunt racing, commonly known as jumps racing, horses are required to jump obstacles over distances ranging from two miles to more than four and a quarter miles.
The two types of obstacles in jumps racing are hurdles and fences. Hurdles are smaller and horses are generally campaigned over hurdles before graduating to racing over fences (in chases).
Not only are horses able to race over different distances, but they are also eligible to race in different divisions. Novice races are designed exclusively for horses who are racing in their first season over hurdles or fences, or for those who have never won a race in that sphere. Handicaps are the most common type of race over jumps. In handicaps, horses carry differing amounts of weight based upon the ability they have shown in previous races, whereas in conditions races horses carry equal weight regardless of past form.
Horses can race on the flat under National Hunt rules, in races known as bumpers which are designed to give inexperienced horses an introduction to racing without being required to jump obstacles.
The other horse racing discipline is Flat racing and, as its name suggests, horses have no obstacles to negotiate. Horses race over distances varying from five furlongs to about two and three-quarter miles and, unlike in National Hunt racing, the horses begin their races from starting stalls.
Like jumps racing, handicaps are the most common type of contest in Flat racing. Conditions races also exist, as do both gender- and age-specific races.
Where jumps racing has novice races as a division, Flat racing has juvenile contests, designed for two-year-old colts or fillies embarking on their first season of racing.
Horses can race on turf or on all-weather surfaces, where the going consistently remains as standard, regardless of weather conditions.
The majority of Flat race meetings in Britain take place on turf, with the exception of the all-weather tracks at Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield, Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton (Kempton and Lingfield also have turf tracks).