Flat racing is a form of horse racing which is run on a level racecourse. It is run over a predetermined distance from 2 furlongs (402 m) up to 3 miles (4,828 m) and is either test of speed, stamina, or both, whilst the skills of the jockey is determined by his ability to restrain the horse or impel it. Flat racing does not require horses to jump over any obstacles such as is required for hurdling or Steeplechase. It differs from harness racing where horses are pulling a sulky and wear a harness. While in many countries flat racing is the most common form of horse racing, in Great Britain and Ireland it is used to describe the racing season that comes after the Jumps racing which is traditionally held over the winter period.
Many different horse breeds are used in flat racing worldwide, but the Thoroughbred is the most dominant. The races take place on track surfaces suitable for horses. Worldwide, the most common is a natural grass surface, called "turf". In North America, the most common surface is a harrowed "dirt" surface, often based primarily on a mixture of sand and local soil. Most winter flat races in Britain and other parts of the world are run on a synthetic or all-weather surface, generally a blend of sand with synthetic fiber and/or rubber, often coated with wax or a similar substance.
Flat races in Great Britain are run over a variety of distances from five furlongs (1,006 metres (3,301 ft)) to over 2 miles (3,200 m) and are generally called sprints, middle distance, or stayers races.
Classic Races - In British horse racing, the classics are a series of horse races run over the flat (i.e. without jumps). Each classic is run once each year and is restricted to intact horses (in other words, geldings are barred) that are three years old; two of them are further restricted to fillies only. The five classic races are:
The majority of flat races in North America are written for and limited to Thoroughbreds. Races up to 1 mile (1,600 m) are common with 1.25 miles (2,010 m) races considered the "classic" distance used for the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic. Rarely will a flat race exceed 1.5 miles (2,400 m), and the few that do are generally on turf surfaces and designed to attract European entries. The highest level races are called Graded stakes races, with Grade I, II or III classification based on the entry "stake" money put up by entrants that goes to total purse money awarded. North American races include conditions races which are often called allowance races, handicaps, and assorted weight for age divisions.
In the western United States and western Canada, a significant number of Quarter Horse races, no more than five furlongs and usually less, are designed for the sprinting abilities of the American Quarter Horse. A limited number of breed-specific flat races are offered for Arabian horses, Appaloosas, and American Paint Horses, as well as a small circuit of specialty racing for mules.