If you don’t follow horse racing closely, it can often feel like a complicated sport with lots of jargon that is difficult to understand. The sport is enjoyed by lots of people around the world, as a day at the races can be a pleasurable experience. Here is everything you need to know about horse racing.


Racehorses begin their careers at the age of two. The colts and fillies are only entered into competitive races if they have matured at this stage; those who are not ready wait until they are three. The biggest year of a horse’s career is often their three-year-old campaign as they race against their fellow age group to compete in derbies around the world. If successful in one of these races, it ensures they have enormous breeding value when they retire and promotes them to the top grade of entries against the older generation. National hunt horses run much longer than their flat counterparts and can often continue in training into their mid-teens.

Different Codes

Midlands103Sport via Twitter

There are two different codes to horse racing, flat and national hunt. Horses who run on the flat have no obstacles to jump and will race out of starting stalls. These horses are likely to be bred for speed, with the best running in races like the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in France where Order of St George has been tipped to come on top this year. National hunt runners, on the other hand, have either hurdles or fences to contend with on their course. These races tend to be over a longer distance; therefore, stamina is more important.


Horses will be placed into different divisions depending on what is their most favorable distance. This means that sprinters will compete against each other and stayers are all in the same race. This not only ensures the races are fair but that they are more interesting to watch as, if a horse is outside of its most comfortable distance, they are unlikely to be very competitive. You will find that horses move up and down in distance throughout their careers. As horses get older, their stamina improves and their trainer can sometimes see better results by altering the length of their trip slightly.

Form Card

One of the most confusing things in horse racing to do, if you are new to the sport, is read the form card of a race. This can be quite useful though when it comes to trying to find a winner. A form card will include where the horse finished in their most recent runs. If there is a 1 next to its name, it means the horse was successful last time, 2 indicates it was second, and so on. There can also be letters in this section. The most important ones are as a follows: F – the horse fell in its race, P – the horse was pulled up and did not finish and U – the runner unseated its jockey.


The ground or going at a track will depend on how much water the course has absorbed before racing. The racetrack will release an official going report that trainers can then use to determine whether it is suitable ground for their horses to run. Some horses prefer it Soft, whole others like it Firm, also known as fast ground. Different racecourses also have various types of surfaces. Turf is the most popular in Europe; however, in North America, most horses run on dirt or an all-weather surface, including in the Breeders’ Cup Championship, which is being held at Del Mar in California in 2017.

Jockeys’ silks

Susie Blackmon via Twitter

You will have noticed that each horse in the race has different colored silks. These silks are the colors of the represented owner. When you register a horse, you have to also choose colors you would like your jockey to wear. This design is submitted and has to be unique to avoid any clashes. You will notice that some horses do have the same silks in a race and that is when the owner has more than one runner in the contest. The big operations such as Godolphin have thousands of horses around the world as they spend a lot of money on their stable.

Hopefully, this information helps and, the next time you are at the races, you will know a lot more about the sport.