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Hannah Hooton

Like any specialised subject, there is the inevitable jargon which accompanies horse racing. To someone who knows the jargon like a first language, it is sometimes easy to forget that others "not in the know" may think he or she is talking in tongues. Here are a few Questions and Answers to some racing rules. I'll update it with more explanations as I think of them but feel free to ask questions as well.

What is the difference between National Hunt racing and Flat racing?

National Hunt racing, otherwise informally known as jump racing, is a style of horse racing run in Britain, Ireland and France, where horse and rider have to negotiate a series of jumps in order to get to the finish with races generally varying in distance between 2 miles and 4 ½ miles. Flat racing, as the name suggests, is run on the "flat" and does not involve any jumps. These races are generally run over much shorter distances from half a mile up to 2 miles. National Hunt racing is mostly practiced during the autumn/winter months of the year and Flat racing during the spring/summer months with minimal overlapping. However, with the introduction of the "all-weather" or synthetic "polytrack" surface, Flat racing is increasing during the winter months as well.

What is the difference between a steeplechase and a hurdle race?

Steeplechases involve negotiating a number of tall thick birch-filled jumps, which can also incorporate water elements or ditches. It is considered a greater test for a horse than a hurdle race, which consists of lower, less rigid "hurdle-like" jumps (also filled to a lesser extent with birch) which can be knocked down. Hurdle races do not incorporate water jumps or open ditches. It is general practice that a National Hunt racehorse should start off his career as a hurdler, for which he must be at least 3 years old before he can compete. Rules forbid horses to run in steeplechases (in Britain anyway) before they are 5 years old. For novice horses who have not run in any type of race before, it is not uncommon for their trainers to enter them in "bumper" races, which are National Hunt flat races involving extended distances without the jumps.

How did steeplechase gets its name?

The first steeplechase was run in Ireland and involved riding across country over rivers, banks, ditches and hedges from one village to the next or to be more specific, from one church steeple to the next (the most visible sight on the horizon), hence it then became known as a steeplechase.

What is a Handicap race?

Handicaps are races in which the "handicapper" allocates different weight handicaps to the horses competing in a race, giving the more talented horses more weight to carry in an effort to give all runners the best possible chance of winning. The Grand National is probably the most famous handicap race.

What is a Grade One race?

A Grade One race (in European flat racing, this is known as a Group One race) is the highest class of race available, with the biggest prize money on offer and generally attracts the most talented horses around. To win or place in a Grade One race is considered a merited achievement and will more than likely influence the sales of a particular horse and its family. There are also Grade Two, Grade Three and Listed races which receive all the same accolades but less so as each is a step down in class. Races below this standard generally attract a lesser standard of racehorse.

What is a furlong and how far is it?

A furlong is a measurement of distance. Races in Britain and Ireland are usually measured in miles and furlongs. One mile is equal to eight furlongs. For those of you in metric countries, don't worry I understand, having lived in both Australia and UK, I found distances completely baffling until I learnt what the conversion rate was! One furlong is the equivalent of 200 metres, which makes one mile 1600 metres, two miles 3200 metres, etc.

What is a maiden?

A maiden is a term given to a horse who has not won a race. A horse who does eventually win a race is known to have "broken his maiden".

8/15/2010 . Edited 9/19/2010 #1
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