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Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Sun, speed and stars - there's nothing flat about the summer game

Kingman: a horse with the kind of blistering speed that makes the Flat great
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High speed

Watching horses competing at speed and hitting the line full of running, often with only a handful of lengths between them, is an infinitely more exhilarating experience than seeing tired, old beasts slowly making their way to the post as their stride shortens and the horse in second struggles to make a dent in the 25-length deficit. And let's face it, seeing horses falling over is most unedifying.

Fresh and exciting

There is always something new and exciting promising to happen on the Flat – who knows, we may be only a few months away from seeing the next Frankel or Sea The Stars make their debut. This keeps everybody on their toes instead of wallowing in the sentimentality surrounding horses that have been going around for the thick end of a decade.

Big clashes

Jumps fans like to point to the fact their stars stick around for longer but unfortunately, they very rarely take on their major rivals outside of Cheltenham (and even then some do all they can to avoid it). On the Flat, it is much harder for the big names to dodge each other and so we learn much more. Golden Horn, for example, only raced for one full season but we saw him eight times, taking on a host of top names at seven very different tracks in four countries. Bobs Worth, meanwhile, raced only seven times from winning the Albert Bartlett in 2011 to the Gold Cup in 2013 at only four different venues. There will have been more reported sightings of Big Foot in that period.

Festivals and variety

Imagine how ridiculous it would have been if, in the moments after Barney Roy won the Greenham last month, Richard Hannon had been asked if he thinks the horse can win the QEII Stakes at Ascot in October. Whereas everything in jumping centres around one meeting at the end of the season, the Flat boasts several fantastic festivals, each prestigious in their own right, providing a compelling narrative throughout the summer.

Surely it's much more enjoyable to go racing in the sunshine?

Warm and sunny

Who wants to stand around racecourses in the rain, freezing their you-know-whats off to enjoy racing? While the British summer is not always perfect, it often provides the opportunity to enjoy the sport in much more pleasant conditions, when the 17 layers of protective clothing can be left at home in favour of something more comfortable.

Breeding and pedigrees

The breeding angle plays a much more significant role in Flat racing and while we may not see the big stars for as many years, their legacies continue as their progeny hit the track and bid to emulate their success. Trying to work out how a horse may perform based on who his or her parents are is also an enjoyable puzzle.

Fashion and fun

Plenty of purists scoff at fashion coverage during race meetings but the fact is meetings like Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood are intrinsically linked with folk getting all glammed up and having a good time. If you're able to get over yourself and enjoy it, witnessing moments like the band singalong at the end of each day at Ascot, in all its colourful goodness, is a treat no jumps meeting can match.

There is always something new and exciting promising to happen on the Flat - we may be only a few months away from seeing the next Frankel
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