8 Different Types of Horse Races 

8 Different Types of Horse Races - horses racing on a dark surface

One of the oldest and most recognized sports in the world is horse racing. It has its roots in the time of Zeus’s chariot racing in ancient Greece. Today, a number of horse races with varying styles and rules are offered for betting.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced horse race enthusiast, understanding the types of races available is vital. So here are eight of the most well-known horse races, along with some key facts.

1.Flat Racing

Flat racing is the most common and popular type of horse race. It is a contest between two or more horses over a set distance on a level track. The horses must run at their fastest pace from start to finish. The wednesday horse races are no exception and feature some of the best flat racing around.

The most prestigious flat race in the world is the Kentucky Derby, which is held annually in Louisville, Kentucky. Other famous flat races include the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes in the United States and Ascot Gold Cup in the United Kingdom.


2. Steeplechasing

Steeplechasing is a thrilling type of horse racing that involves leaping barriers like fences and ditches. The horses must keep up their speed to complete a course with multiple jumps. That makes steeplechasing races longer and generally riskier than other races.

The Grand National, which takes place yearly at Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England, is the most famous steeplechase race worldwide. Other famous steeplechase races include the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Punchestown Festival in Ireland.

3. Harness Racing

Harness racing is a form of horse racing where horses compete while pulling two-wheeled carts called “sulky.” The horses must stay in their lanes and maintain speed throughout the race, usually on flat surfaces like a racetrack or oval track. And because the horses are pulling carts, harness racing has become an exciting spectator sport.

The Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey, hosts The Hambletonian, the most well-known harness race in the world. Moreover,  The Little Brown Jug and the Kentucky Futurity are two more noteworthy harness races.

4. Endurance Racing

Endurance racing is a form of horse racing where horses should keep up a consistent speed over long ranges. It can be conducted on level ground or up steep mountains, which makes it extremely challenging for the horses and riders.


The Tevis Cup is one of the world’s most famous endurance races, held annually in California. Other popular endurance races include the Arabian Horse World Cup and the Mongol Derby.

5. Point-to-Point Racing

Point-to-point racing is a type of horse race that requires horses to travel between two points, usually over natural terrains like open fields or forests. The horses must navigate obstacles and negotiate their course while also maintaining speed.

The Point-to-Point Gold Cup is the most prestigious race of its type, held annually in England. Other famous point-to-point races include the South Warwickshire Hunt.

6. Quarter Horse Racing

Running full speed on a straight track over short lengths of up to one-fourth mile is known as quarter horse racing. For the horses to cross the finish line first, they need to accelerate quickly. And because the races are short, they often feature exciting photo finishes.

The All American Futurity is one of the world’s most famous quarter horse races, held annually in Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico. Other notable quarter-horse races include the Rainbow Derby and the Heritage Place Futurity.

7. Claiming Race

Claiming races are horse races in which the horses are sold at auction off before or after the race. The winning horse is then offered for auction to the highest bidder, making it a thrilling and unpredictably surprising event.

The Claiming Crown is one of the world’s most prominent claiming races, held annually in Kentucky. Other famous claiming races include the Newmarket Claiming Stakes and the Doncaster Claiming Cup.

8. Stakes Horse Racing

The most prestigious type of horse racing is stakes racing. They offer large prize purses and attract some of the world’s finest horses, trainers, and jockeys. Moreover, the regulations are often stricter than those of other races, making them a true test of skill.

The Dubai World Cup is the most famous stakes race in the world, held annually at Meydan Racecourse in Dubai. Other notable stakes races include the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re looking for thrills, prestige, or just a good old-fashioned horse race, there’s something for everyone in the world of horse racing. So get up and be ready to support your favourite horse! With various types of horse races to explore, you’re sure to find the perfect one for you. 

From the high-stakes drama of the Dubai World Cup to the unpredictable auctions of a claiming race, there’s something for everyone in this classic sport. And don’t forget about the iconic Cheltenham Gold Cup and Punchestown Festival in Ireland—the most incredible show on turf! So whatever your preference, get out there and take part in the thrill of horse racing. It’s an experience you will never forget.


Never miss a news piece or an article. Subscribe and we'll send it all straight to your inbox each week.

We promise we’ll never spam! Take a look at our Privacy Policy for more info.

News Team

Author: Suzanne Ashton Founder, Everything Horse Ba Hons Marketing Management email: contact@everythinghorseuk.co.uk

Learn More →