Codes of Racing

Codes of Racing

For many this will be old news, but I find increasing numbers of newer Traders who do not understand the differences between the codes of Racing. Although this is not comprehensive, it may help.


There are 2 codes of Horse Racing; They have separate rules that govern the race, although both codes share many rules. One of the codes is “Flat racing”. Flat racing occurs in the UK between the beginning of March and the start of November on the turf. This is known as the “turf season”. Flat Racing occurs all year around on the non-turf tracks, commonly known as All-weather or AW. These tracks are Southwell, Wolverhampton, Chelmsford City, Kempton Park (also has a National Hunt course), Lingfield (also has a National Hunt course AND a Tuft flat course. Coming soon to AW is Newcastle.

The races (except on rare occasions) are started by using starting stalls. The horses enter the stalls and when the starter starts the race, they all open simultaneously. Races are run over distances from 5 furlongs (a furlong is 1/8th of a mile) to around 2 miles. There are a couple of extreme races, the longest being 2m 6(f) furlongs, but this is unique. Most are between 5f and 1m 6f.

Flat racing is dominated by powerful Arab owners, many are Rulers and Princes from Dubai and Qatar. The most formidable owners of recent years are the owners of the Coolmore Stud in Ireland. Their breeding operation produces the world top horses and they have expanded to Australia and the US. There are huge sums of money involved in breeding of Flat horses; The world’s top races have prize money in access of $5M. In the UK the pinnacle of Flat racing is the Royal Ascot festival which takes place in June.

The other code of Racing is called National Hunt racing. National Hunt Racing is less formal; many of the trainers are farmers and train few horses. It is perceived as more amateur. But is fiercely competitive and more friendly. The horses are mostly Gelded (Castrated), so have no breeding value and are usually much cheaper to buy. The season proper runs from mid-October to the end of April, although there is NH racing all year round, the better horses won’t be seen during the summer months.

NH races are run in 3 types of race.

  1. Hurdles
  2. Chases
  3. NH Flat (or bumper)

Hurdles are thin and low obstacles that the horses need to clear. They are constructed of panels and are about 3 ½ feet high. They will often collapse when hit by a horse. Hurdle races are run at a faster pace than a Chase. Race distances span from 2 miles to 3 ½ miles.

Chases (or Steeplechases) are for the more mature horses that are fully grown. A Chase is run over proper fences that are fixed and in many cases very substantial. They are at least 4 ½ feet high. Race distances are from 2m to 4 ½ miles and include some of the world’s most famous races; The Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National amongst them.

NH Flat races are flat races in effect, but are ran under NH rules. There are no obstacles and are started by a tape NOT stalls. The distances range from 1m 4f to 2 ½ miles. Bumper horses often go on to be hurdlers and chasers.

The blue riband of National Hunt racing is the Cheltenham Festival which takes place in March, followed by the Grand National meeting at Aintree in April.