Flat racing is a pre-determined distance race in which Thoroughbred horses race over a flat surface. Unlike the steeplechase and other jumps races, there are not obstacles that must be jumped over. Thoroughbred horse racing is a very popular sport in the United States, Ireland, England, Canada and Australia. As the horses are very expensive, generally the horse-racing was kept to the elite for many years but as the sport was opened up to more and more spectators, it began to gain popularity.

Thoroughbred Horses

Thoroughbred horses are among the fastest in the world. They were bred originally in England. The three original sires were Byerly Turk, Darley Arabian and Godolphin Arabian and all Thoroughbred horses bred since then can be traced back to those three horses.

As the descendants of the Thoroughbred horses began the grow, the breeders in England decided it would be best to begin recording the births of the horses in a registration book. Since that time, it is customary to record pedigree so that each Thoroughbred horse can be traced back to its origins. Different governing bodies ensure the purity of the blood of these horses, including the Jockey Club. The highest amount of Thoroughbred horses are born in the United States, with Australia holding second place. Australian Thoroughbreds are registered in the Australian Stud Book.

Flat Races

Flat racing takes place on a flat surface, sometimes grass or dirt or sometimes an all-weather synthetic substance. Races are generally over varying distances and are sorted in three categories: sprints, middle distance and stayers races. These races are measured in furlongs. Horses race across the flat and the first to cross the finish line is declared the winner. The Thoroughbreds, bred for their speed, are a sight to witness as they thunder across the track and fight for the finish.

Across Australia, as more and more Thoroughbreds were imported and eventually bred, the racing clubs began to form. Sydney was a hub of horse-racing by 1810, and in the following years, the other states in Australia began to form racing clubs. The Australian Racing Board is the main governing body for the country and regulates the state racing clubs. The rules for racing in Australia are established by the Australian Racing Board.

Grading Systems

Two main types of flat races across Europe are conditions races and handicap races. Conditions races assign the weight a horse may carry according to conditional factors. A horse that often wins and has more experience might have to carry less weight while a horse that is newer to the sport, younger and less able will not need to carry quite as much weight. The weight carried is determined by the sex, age, ability and experience of the horse.

In handicap races, horses are assigned extra weights based upon the ability of the horse. The person responsible for this is called the handicapper. Each horse is assessed according to ability and assigned a handicap in order to better equalize the race.

In other countries around the world, races are determined by a graded system. The graded system uses stakes to determine the ranking of the horses. Those stakes determine the entry fee as well as the prize money.

In the stakes levels of competitions, horses must begin at the lowest level and work their way up to the highest and most prestigious races. When horses begin their careers, they are known as maidens. Once the horse wins its first race, the horse is no longer dubbed a maiden.


The jockeys used in flat racing are generally of a smaller build than those in jumps racing. While weight qualifications differ in different leagues and clubs across the world, the jockeys are all rather light-weight. Generally, jockeys stand under 1. 8m tall and weigh less than 57kg. Jockeys must be small in stature but have considerable strength. In professional racing, jockeys are hired by the owner of the horse, usually on the trainer’s recommendation, and are paid a set rate and a percentage of the winnings.

Traditionally, many jockeys were male. In Australia, however, female jockeys have been racing in amateur leagues since the 1850s. One Australian woman named Wilhemena Smith even duped the Queensland racing leagues into thinking she was a man named Bill Smith. Since that time, the racing world of Australia has been opened up to more females, but they still only make up a small and overlooked population of jockeys in Australia.

Flat Racing in Australia

In Australia, horse racing is an exciting sport for participants as well as spectators. Horse betting is a very popular industry across Australia. The race betting is structured around the stakes. Betters can bet on favourites, or choose horses with lesser odds. In a horse with lower stakes, the payout is higher because the chances of winning are slim. Betting in Australia either takes place on-site or at an off-track facility.

The top races in Australia take place in Victoria. The Melbourne Cup is the premiere Australian flat race. In the Melbourne Cup, the Thoroughbreds race 3,200 metres every first Tuesday of November. The first Melbourne Cup was held in 1861 where seventeen horses raced for a golden watch prize. The day of the Melbourne Cup is known as derby day. For those in the city of Melbourne, derby day is a national holiday. Derby day is also a fashionable day across the state. Spectators, whether at the event or at home, dress for the occasion in fine clothes and fancy hats.

Each state has its own clubs and racetracks. The Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival is a two-day racing event. The racing attracts people from across the country and Australian horse racing enthusiasts hoping to enjoy the show or place a bet. Horse racing is the third most popular spectator sport in Australia.

Flat racing is one of the most recognized and prestigious sports in the equestrian world. The sport involves sheer speed and willpower. Thoroughbred horses are the finest racing horses in the world and the flat races are the best displays of that breeding. From the mint juleps of the Kentucky Derby to the cornflowers of the Melbourne Cup, the excitement and glamour of flat horse racing has long been a tradition in countries across the world.