What is Flat Racing

As the name suggests, Flat racing is the discipline of horse racing in which participants race ‘on the level’ and are not required to negotiate obstacles of any kind. In Britain, Flat racing is staged over distances between five furlongs and two-and-threequarter miles and horses aged two years and upwards are eligible to compete, depending on individual race conditions. With a few exceptions, Flat races start from numbered starting stalls, which ensure a fair, even start; the position of each horse in the starting stalls is predetermined by a random draw performed by the racing authorities on the day the horses are declared to run.

Traditionally, the Flat racing season ran from the Lincoln Meeting at Doncaster in late March or early April to the November Meeting at the same South Yorkshire venue in early November. Nowadays, the ‘official’ Flat racing season, during which the Flat Jockeys’ Championship is decided, runs from the start of the Guineas Festival at Newmarket in late April or early May to British Champions Day at Ascot in mid-October. However, since the advent of so-called ‘all weather’ racing, which is staged on synthetic surfaces, in 1989, Flat racing actually takes place all year ’round.

Flat horses tend to be smaller and more athletic than their National Hunt counterparts. A lucrative breeding industry means the best Flat horses are often whisked off to stud at the end of their three-year-old, or four-year-old, campaign. Thoroughbred racehorses typically peak at four, or five, years and few Flat horses race on beyond this stage of their careers.

What is a Classic?

In British horse racing, the term ‘Classic’ refers to any one of the five oldest and most prestigious races in the Flat racing calendar, namely the 1,000 Guineas, 2,000 Guineas, Derby, Oaks and St. Leger. Unsurprisingly, all the Classic are classified at the highest Group One level and are contested only by three-year-old horses; the 1,000 Guineas and Oaks are restricted to fillies, while the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St. Leger are open to both sexes, excluding geldings.

The final Classic of the season, the St. Leger, run over a mile-and-threequarters at Doncaster in September, is also the oldest, having been inaugurated in 1776. The Oaks, run over a mile-and-a-half at Epsom in June, was inaugurated in1779, followed by the Derby, run over the same course and distance, also in June, a year later. The 2,000 Guineas and 1,000 Guineas, both run over a mile at Newmarket in May, were later additions to the calendar, being staged for the first time in 1809 and 1814, respectively. Indeed, the ‘Classics’ were not known as such until 1815.

The 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St. Leger constitute the so-called ‘Triple Crown’, last won by Nijinsky in 1970, while the 1,000 Guineas, Oaks and St. Leger constitute the so-called ‘Fillies’ Triple Crown’, last won by Oh So Sharp in 1985. In either case, the three races are staged over a mile, a mile-and-a-half and a mile-and-threequarters, on three different racecourses, over the space of five months, so winning all three requires an outstanding performer.

What is a selling race?

As the name suggests, a selling race is a horse race in which all the runners are for sale. Immediately afterwards, the winner is sold – or at least offered for sale, subject to a predetermined bid – at a compulsory public auction. Similarly, any other horse can be bought, or ‘claimed’, for a price specified by its trainer at the time of entry. Winning owners can bid on their own horse and, if they win the auction, the winning horse is said to be ‘bought in’; of course, they do risk paying more for buying their own horse than the prize money they receive for winning the race in the first place.

Selling races can be handicaps, in which horses carry weight according to their official handicap ratings, or non-handicaps, in which horses carry weight according to their age and sex. In either case, selling races are low grade in terms of quality. In fact, following the demise of so-called ‘banded’ racing – a shortlived, and ultimately unsuccessful, attempt to cater for the worst horses in training – selling races represent the lowest grade of all in horse racing. That said, there is still the occasional ‘rags-to-riches’ story about a horse that was bought, cheaply, out of a selling race and went on to repay the original investment many times over.

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