Welcome to the second part of our introductory series into the different types of horse races that you may come across in UK racing.
Our light-hearted story follows the fictional horse, Romeo, as we track his career and introduce a number of different race types. You can catch up on the first part of our series by clicking here.
Jumping straight back into the action, we pick up the story following Romeo’s sale to the reputable trainer, James Lurker. James has an eye for improving young horses, and gets his new acquisition straight onto the gallops to see what he’s made of. After a few training sessions, it’s clear to see that Romeo has been racing over distances which have been far too short and has the potential to be a very good distance runner indeed. As a result he is entered into a Listed Race which, in terms of quality, sits above the top handicap races and below the top level group races which we’ll come to later.
A listed race does not handicap horses in the traditional sense, but instead applied a weight to each horse based on certain conditions. For example, mares (female horses) may be penalised by having to carry an extra 5lbs, or any horse’s which have previously placed or won in a group race could carry more weight. Rather than a sliding scale of ability that is used in handicap running, listed races are very black and white in terms of how a horse is weighted.
Since Romeo had shown relatively little in his career to date, he was given a weight with no additional penalties, and won convincingly against some very good horses in his first listed race.
His jockey and trainer both agree that he has a lot more to offer and so this time decide to plump for the really big money. They throw him in at the deep end in a Group One Race which are races that sit at the very pinnacle of the sport. They can offer outrageous amounts of prize money and attract the best horses around. Group races are divided into group one, two and three races with group one top of the tree. The National Hunt calendar has its own set of top races, known as Graded Races, which operate on a similar plane.
On this occasion the step in class is just too much for Romeo and, although he runs creditably, he finishes unplaced. A creditable run at this level is a big achievement and his trainer certainly isn’t downbeat considering he picked him up from the lowly claimer level. After a few more high level races, his trainer sees that Romeo has some excellent jumping ability which could play into his favour in another type of race altogether – National Hunt Racing. National Hunt racing is the name given to the type of horse racing where obstacles need to be navigated and they are split into two types – hurdles and chases.
A Hurdle Race is classified as any race which is run between 2 – 3 ½ miles where the entrants are required to take on hurdles at least 3 ½ feet high. However, since Romeo has shown incredible promise over larger objects, he is a great contender for a Steeplechase, also known as a Chase. These are for the really gutsy horses with race distances of 2 – 4 ½ miles in length, the most famous of which is the 4m 3 ½ f Grand National at Aintree. As well as being run over longer distances, the obstacles (fences) are a minimum of 4 ½ feet tall meaning that these strong, stamina-filled horses are given a stern test.
A winner over multiple classes and distances, Romeo is finally put out to stud – the perfect reward for a fine fictional career. Although light-hearted in its approach, this should at least give you the basic understanding required to know your handicaps from your hurdles, and every bit of knowledge helps when it comes to following horse racing.