Horse Racing for all Shapes and Sizes

Horseracing for All Shapes and Sizes

If you think horseracing is all about super-expensive racehorses thundering down turf tracks in front of large crowds of ultra-rich people in silly hats, you may be surprised to find that several different racing formats thrive in different parts of the world.

Thoroughbred Racing

NEWBURY, ENGLAND - JULY 17: Martin Dwyer and Conniption land The Highclere Thoroughbred Racing E.B.F. maiden Fillies' Stakes Race run at Newbury Racecourse on July 17, 2009 in Newbury, England. (Photo by Julian Herbert/Getty Images)

Thoroughbred racing is the racing format often described as the ‘sport of kings’. Originating in England, thoroughbred racing is the most familiar racing format in the world, and is popular in the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, South Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Thoroughbred racehorses are a specific breed of horse created by the interbreeding of war horses from Europe with smaller but faster and hardier stallions from the middle-East. These horses are so expensive that individual ownership is restricted to the wealthiest people and racing collectives.

Thoroughbred horseracing is the staple of racing betting markets in many Western European countries. The sport enjoys extensive media coverage in the United Kingdom and France, and the feats of the most successful horses are often celebrated well beyond the confines of the racing community.

National Hunt Racing

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 11: Trent Wells (C) riding Pentiffic wins 2 the Leslie Short Memorial Open Hurdle during the MacDonald Steeplechase Race Day at Sandown Lakeside on July 11, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)

National hunt racing is a racing format popular in the United Kingdom and Ireland. The sport involves racing over a turf course that features a collection of obstacles which must be jumped. It is thought to have evolved from the tradition of horseback hunting, which required horses to navigate the obstacles provided by forests and moors at high speed.

This racing format is generally regarded as more egalitarian than thoroughbred racing. All racehorses competing in the format are gelded, so that as a result they have no stud value, and are therefore not prohibitively expensive to acquire. Events like the Aintree Grand National are amongst the most popular racing events on the planet, attracting hundreds of millions of viewers from around the world.

The sport is regarded as tougher, and more uncompromising, than flat racing. Races take place over longer distances, placing enormous demands on the stamina of participants, whilst the fences used in steeplechases often result in falls that can kill or disable horses and jockeys.

Harness Racing

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 04: Just An Excuse after winning the Interdominion Pacers Heat 1 at the Interdominion Harness Racing Champs held at Alexandra Park, Auckland New Zealand, Friday 04 March 2005. (Photo by Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

Harness racing is the modern incarnation of one of the oldest forms of horseracing – chariot racing. Today’s harness-races have jockeys positioned in two-wheeled carts, each behind a horse, and are conducted at two different paces, trots and gallops.

The horses used for harness racing are called standardbreds, relatives of the thoroughbreds used in flat racing. Their bodies are shorter and stockier than their thoroughbred cousins, and they have milder temperaments.

Harness racing is the most popular racing format in many parts of Central and Northern Europe, both as a spectator sport and as a betting sport. Harness races also take place in the United States and Canada, and the sport is popular in Australia and New Zealand.

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