Gallop Through the Different Types of Horse Races in the UK and Ireland

Updated: 9925 Learning

Learn about every type of race from National Hunt to Flat racing, stakes, handicaps, and prestigious racing festivals in the UK and Ireland

Gallop Through the Different Types of Horse Races in the UK and Ireland
Andy Powell Content Editor

Horse Racing stats man, Andy has contributed to OLBG for 18 years - An Ipswich fan and F1 fanatic, he also contributes EFL football and Motor Sport opinion.

This ultimate guide shines the spotlight on the diversity of types of horse races within the UK and Irish circuits, from the spirited hurdles of National Hunt to the elegance of Flat racing. Whether you're a seasoned enthusiast or a newcomer, understanding each type will enhance your appreciation of the sport's heritage and assist in deciding which types you might ant to bet on.

Gallop into Knowledge: Master the Types of UK & Irish Horse Races with Our Guide! 🏇

Ready for the races? 🏇 Dive into our guide to understand all types of horse races in the UK & Ireland! From National Hunt's hurdles to Flat race elegance to the year-round all weather season. 🐎🏆

OLBG Park Stakes, OLBG BrandingThere are many different types of horse race and to a newcomer it can be hard to tell the difference as all types of race can attract either small, medium or large sized fields. It is worth taking the time to learn the different types of race as most punters stick to only two or three types of race to bet on as they learn to specialise. Finding which types of race are most likely to make a profit for you can be the key to making a long term profit in horse racing, or at the very least minimising losses.

Selling and Claiming Races

These races usually attract a lower class of horse than most other races and what makes these unique is that all the horses running in the race are effectively up for sale and can be bought after the race has been run. What differs between selling and claiming races is that in sellers horses will usually run with an allotted weight whilst in claimers the weight is determined by the auction price set by connections, the higher the auction reserve the higher the weight the horse has to carry. Occasionally a ‘better’ horse will drop down to claiming or selling company as a confidence booster and they can go off very short prices.

Apprentice, Amateur, Lady Rider or Gentlemen Rider Races

If you see a race marked with any of the above it means it is restricted to either only that type of jockey. Apprentices are riders who are yet to win 95 races under rules but unlike other races, they don’t ride with their usual claim, instead their weight is decided by whether or not they have ridden a winner and whether or not they are riding for a retained yard. In amateur races the weights carried will be higher than usual as amateur jockeys usually weigh a couple of stone more than professionals.

Maiden Races

Nearly every horse starts life in a maiden race. These are for horse who are yet to win a race and the class of the maiden will give an indication of the sorts of race the horses are going to be competing in later in their career. A horse qualifies for a handicap rating once it has either won a maiden or run three times but not all maiden runners will end up in handicaps, some will spend their careers running in better races and others will be running in lower races.

Handicap Races

Most days’ racing will be dominated by handicaps, races that pit horses of similar abilities together, usually to ensure a competitive betting heat. The weights are decided by a horse’s official rating, a horse rated 80 will carry 2lbs more than a horse rated 78. The class of the handicap will be determined by the ceiling rating of the race, for example a handicap may be for horses rated up to an official rating of 95. In some handicaps you may notice a ‘long handicap’ and this is when horses do not have a high enough rating to run off their correct weight in the class of the race. The amount of weight they would carry if running off their correct mark will be displayed below the race card usually in the long handicap section.

Although some handicaps have small fields, handicaps will usually feature bigger fields and the amount of runners will determine the number of places and place terms for each way bets. Handicaps with 16 or more runners are often considered to have the most favourable each way terms with four places being paid at a quarter of the odds whilst at least 8 runners will be required for bookies to pay a third place.

Handicaps can also be the most versatile type of race, you can find selling, maiden, apprentice, amateur, lady rider, gentleman rider and listed handicaps throughout the racing calendar.

Nursery Races

Nurseries may sound an odd type of race but they are simply handicaps for 2 year olds (the youngest age group at which a horse can compete).

Novice Races

Another kind of race that only 2 year olds can contest, this time the race is for horses that have no more than two wins to their name. Novice races often attract smaller fields than most other races.

Conditions and Classified Stakes

These two races have fairly similar conditions to them, Conditions Stakes tend to be of a higher quality but both races see horses carry the same weights (unless a horse has a penalty) regardless of their official rating. Both races will have a ceiling rating so the horses closer to that ceiling rating should be advantaged by the weights. To qualify for a classified stakes a horse needs to have run at least three times or run twice with at least one victory.

Listed Races

A listed race is very much between the standard of a group race and a conditions stakes. They aren’t usually restricted to horses of a certain official rating but horses that have won at a higher level will have to carry a penalty, the weight of which depends on the level of that win. You may hear that some horses are targeting ‘black type’ and this means they will need to place at listed level at the very least. This is particularly important for boosting the paddock value of mares.

Group/Grade Races

Group races (or Graded races depending on the country/code of the racing) are the top level of racing. There are Group 1, 2 and 3 races with Group 1 being the highest class and these races are usually only contested by the very best horses. Horses may carry penalties in these races if they have won at a higher level, as there is no higher class than Group 1 it means the horses of the same age will compete off level weights.

You Probably Won't Bet On All Of These

You'll probably find that you end up betting on just one or two types of race for most of your bets as you find what you are best at. Specialisation can be quite important, whether it is the type of race or the distance. OLBG member nors has written a blog about finding your betting niche. There is also a forum thread on Races to back in where members discuss the types of races they like to get involved in.

OLBG member monkeytennis has shared his thoughts on the best type of race to bet on in his blog, click here to view his and other's thoughts on this subject.

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