Types of Horse Racing


There are several different varieties of horse racing. Each has its own set of rules and strategies. Different types of races are also run by different breeds. It is helpful to understand the differences in each type of race to enjoy them more fully.

Flat Racing

  • Flat races are run by Thoroughbreds and by Quarter Horses. Races take place on a level track with no hurdles. Flat racing tests the speed, endurance, and skill of the jockey Flat races are run on either turf (grass) or all weather (synthetic) tracks. They are by far the most common horse races in the United States. The Triple Crown races are flat races.


Harness Racing

  • In harness racing, horses pull a two-wheeled cart, or sulky. There are two kinds of harness racing, trot racing and faster paced racing. Harness racing is not as popular as flat racing, but it involves more strategy in betting and it is fun to watch, so it attracts its own fans.


Jump Racing

  • In jump racing, horses jump over obstacles, such as hurdles, fences, or ditches, which makes it more dangerous than flat racing. In the United States, jump racing is known as steeplechasing. Steeplechasing is divided into two forms: hurdle races and timber races.
  • In hurdle races, horses jump over a series of hurdles, which must be at least 3 ½ feet high. There must be at least eight hurdles in a race, but there are often more. Hurdles are usually made of flexible pieces of brush, which makes it easier for horses to jump than the hurdles used in timber races.
  • In timber races, the obstacles are solid wooden fences that may be as high as five feet. Timber races cover a longer distance than hurdle races and require more skill.


Though flat racing is by far the most popular variety of horse racing in the United States, jump racing and harness racing both have avid fans. The type of horse racing you enjoy most depends on the speed, difficulty, and complexity of the race type. The level of strategy you are willing to employ in betting is also a factor.


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