Guide for New Racegoers

If you are new to horse racing this guide will help you.  There are many types of horse racing, from Handicaps and Bumpers to Flat and National Hunt racing.

Flat Racing
As the name indicates, this type of horse racing is run on the flat, with no jumps.

    • Flat races are run over distances ranging from 5 furlongs (5/8 mile or 1,000 metres) to 20 furlongs (2 1/2 miles or 4,000 metres).
    • They are started from stalls.
    • The flat racing season runs from mid-March to mid-November.
    • Flat horses mature quickly and start running as 2 or 3-year-olds.

National Hunt Racing / Jumps
All jump races are contested over at least 2 miles and the horses and jockeys have to jump a number of obstacles. Jump horses mature more slowly and don’t run until they are 4 or 5 year olds.

Types of Jump Races

    • Steeplechase – Run over “fences” which vary in size.
    • Hurdle – Run over obstacles measuring about 3 feet 1 inch in height.
    • Point to Point – Run over fences on designated farmland throughout Ireland in the Spring and Autumn. Point to points are like a nursery for young jump horses.

Horse Racing Glossary

Maiden  – These races are for horses that haven’t won a race before

Handicap – A handicap race sees all horses carry weights based on their ability, which is assessed by the official handicapper. The highest rated horse carries the most weight and the lowest carries the least. Theoretically they then all have an equal chance of winning. A Nursery is a handicap for 2-year-olds only.

Novice – These races are hurdles and steeplechases for horses that haven’t won such a race prior to that season. However, a horse that has won over hurdles the season before can still run in a novice chase and vice versa. (?)

Bumper– A Bumper is a special flat race for young jump horses (also called National Hunt Flat Races). Run over 2 – 2 1/2 miles, these are usually confined to amateur jockeys.

Group 1, 2, 3 (Flat) – These names indicate valuable races (Group 1 being the most valuable) in which the weights carried are the same for all horses.

Listed – These races are just below Group standard but still quite prestigious, and are ‘weight for age’ races.

Conditions Race – A notch below listed standard, Conditions Races require certain conditions for qualification, e.g. winner of one race or more, winner of races of a certain value etc.