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Thoroughbred horse racing is a sport and industry involving the racing and hound racing of Thoroughbred horses. It is governed by different national bodies. There are two forms of the sport: flat racing and jump racing, called National Hunt racing in the UK and steeplechasing in the US. Jump racing can be further divided into hurdling and steeplechasing.
Types of races
- A handicap race is one in which the runners have been “handicapped” by carrying more weight, also called an impost, according to their performance in other races. Theoretically, all horses have a chance of being competitive in a race that is correctly handicapped. Examples include the Melbourne Cup, the Grand National, the Cambridgeshire Handicap, the Donn Handicap, the Santa Anita Handicap, the Hollywood Gold Cup, the Auckland Cup, the Easter Handicap, and the Caulfield Cup.
- Higher-class races for bigger prizes are known by different terms in various countries—graded stakes races in the United States and Canada, conditions races in England and France, and group races in Australia and New Zealand. They often involve competitors that belong to the same gender, age and class. These races may, though, be “weight-for-age”, with weights adjusted only according to age, and also there are “set weights” where all horses carry the same weight. Furthermore, there are “conditions” races, in which horses carry weights that are set by conditions, such as having won a certain number of races, or races of a certain value. Examples of a stakes/conditions race are the Breeders’ Cup races, the Dubai World Cup, the 2,000 Guineas Stakes, the 1,000 Guineas Stakes, The Derby, The Oaks, the St. Leger Stakes, the Kentucky Derby, the Kentucky Oaks, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, the Travers Stakes, and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
- A maiden race is one in which the runners have never won a race. Maiden races can be among horses of many different age groups. It is similar to a stakes race in the respect that horses all carry similar weights and there are no handicapped “penalties.” This is the primary method for racing a 2 year old for the first time, although only against other 2 year olds. Three-year-olds also only race against their own age in maiden races early in the year.
- An allowance race is one in which the runners run for a higher purse than in a maiden race. These races usually involve conditions such as “non-winner of three lifetime.” They usually are for a horse which has broken its maiden but is not ready for stakes company.
- A claiming race is one in which the horses are all for sale for more or less the same price (the “claiming price”) up until shortly before the race. The intent of this is to even the race; if a better-than-class horse is entered (with the expectation of an easy purse win), it might be lost for the claiming price, which is likely less than the horse is worth. Someone may wish to claim a horse if they think the horse has not been trained to its fullest potential under another trainer. If a horse is purchased, a track official tags it after the race, and it goes to its new owner.
- A selling race, or seller, is one in which the winner is put up for auction immediately after the race.
- An optional claiming race is a hybrid of allowance and claiming race, developed to increase field sizes. A horse who does not fit the conditions can still “run for the tag”, i.e. be run conditional on also being offered for sale.
- A Sweepstakes is an old-fashioned term (now usually abbreviated to “Stakes”) for a race in which the winning owner wins, or “sweeps” the entry fees paid by the owners of all the other horses entered.