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.