Understanding the most common types of horse racing

August 04 2021

There are 3 main types of horse racing you need to understand and they consist of the following 

Flat Racing

Under flat racing, horses ride from one point to the endpoint on a flat surface and it’s the most popular type of horse racing worldwide.

Most of the flat races are held on turf surfaces but in other parts like North America dirt surfaces/tracks are still prevailing.

 The range of distance horse’s flat race is between 1 to 3 miles and its common in

North American horse race events like:

Kentucky Derby 

Belmont stakes


In Australia, horse race events like:


Australian Cup

Australian Derby


In England, horse race events like 2000 & 1000 Guinea stakes, Epsom Oaks, Epsom Derby and Leger stakes.

 Flat Racing is categorized under handicapping and conditional horse racing.

With conditional flat racing, horses are handpicked according to elements like the sex and age of the horse for example horses should be 3 years old and thoroughly bred male or female depending on the horse event.

While under the handicapping, the handicapper decides the handicap based on the horse speed, the jockey’s stamina, form and post position and other factors that may affect the performance of the horse on the track.

National hunt (Jump Racing)

With jump racing, horses are faced with hurdles and fences and ditches to overcome before reaching their destined point.

The jump race is very popular in Europe in countries like England, Ireland and France.

And horse race events like the   National hunt Event in England, Grand National, King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.


Harness Racing 

Under harness racing, the horse is obligated to balance the weight of both the jockey and the horse.  

Here horses are to pace at a certain given speed consistently and the horses are penalized in case they break the stride by forcibly slowing them down by the jockey.

The most popular harness horse racing is the Prix d’Amerique held in France annually.


Endurance Racing  

Just like the name, Endurance racing tests the willpower of a horse to track on much longer distances. 

This horse race type is not too popular in Europe and North America but has a place in the Arab horse racing world with events like Mongol Derby.

This isn’t huge in those areas mentioned because it takes longer time periods which really is not ideal for either the jockey or the horse itself.


Graded Stakes racing

The grade stakes racing is where horses are assigned to a certain grade between grade 1, grade 2 and grade 3 according to competitiveness.

The grade stakes events have various lengths, track surfaces that are featured.  This event is usually a stepping stone for horses looking to compete in the bigger events and also acts as a measuring yardstick on how great a horse, jockey and trainer can perform while in competition.

Some of the most prominent graded stakes race events include Santa Anita Derby and Arkansas Derby.


Quarter Horse Racing 

The quarter horse racing type puts an emphasis on the level of speed of a horse on very short tracks.

The quarter means that the race takes a quarter of a mile or less which makes it a very short competition compared to other types of horse racing.


Those are currently the most common types of horse racing with flat racing being the most popular alongside Jump racing too.

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