Thoroughbred Flat Horse Racing - The Sport of Kings
Of the many different forms of horse racing taking place today, thoroughbred racing, or flat racing, is probably the most popular and the most well known. In this form of racing, a horse has to race competitors over a certain set distance. The track is usually oval in shape and the surface can be dirt, turf (grass) or all-weather which is usually synthetic. There are no obstacles on the track and the race is primarily about speed and stamina. Flat racing is the term used to refer to this sort of racing in the United Kingdom as it helps to distinguish it from other forms of racing. The United Kingdom can, in many respects, be considered the home of this form of horse racing. The Thoroughbred racehorse was bred in this country for the purpose of racing. It is considered by many to be a superior equine athlete and often the most exciting races are those in which thoroughbreds are used. In fact, thoroughbreds excel in most forms of racing and have become one of the most widely used breeds of horse, not only in horse racing, but also in other sports around the world.
In the UK and much of Europe, thoroughbred horse racing has slightly different classifications from those used in the United States. The races are generally split into two groups – Condition Races and Handicap Races. Condition Races offer the most prestige and the biggest purses and are run on international, national and domestic scales. In handicap races the horse is assigned a different weight to carry according to its ability by the Jockey Club's official handicapper. These races are more run-of-the-mill in nature but they are run on a daily basis and provide the foundation of the sport. In the US, these same classifications apply but a Condition Race is called a Graded Stakes Race. Graded Stakes races can be further divided into other classifications such as ‘set weight’ races or ‘weight-for-age’ races. As in the UK, the purses as well as the prestige at these races is much greater than in handicap races. The US also has maiden races in which the horses – which are usually about two years old – have never won a race. Usually it is the horse’s first race. An Allowance Race is similar to a maiden except the horse may have run it’s maiden race and the purse is bigger. In a Claiming Race you have to opportunity to claim someone else’s horse for a given price tag. This can be beneficial to the claimer if they think the horse has not been trained to it’s fullest potential since the horse may go on to be a better racer.
There are many other factors which influence races such as the weight the horse carries, their proximity to the inside barrier, gender and track surface. The jockey and trainer also usually have a great impact on the horses overall performance. Thoroughbred horseracing has become one of the most popular sports in the world mainly due to the incredibly large purses and the prestige which is attached to many races. They also form a good basis for legalized wagering and often this forms the very basis of the sport. The average thoroughbred horse is retired after three or five years of racing and, if it has done well on the track, it is taken to stand at stud where it will usually produce champion quality offspring. Those that were not so successful on the track are usually gelded and sold as sports horses.