Horse Racing 101: What Are The Different Kinds of Horse Races In Australia?

by | 8 Apr 2022

Australia is home to some of the world’s most prestigious kinds of horse races. The most popular one is the Melbourne Cup, which is one of Australia’s most important horse races and is known as “the race that stops a nation”.

Many Australians use these prestigious races as an opportunity to wager on their favourite horses and the statistics speak for themselves. Each year, Australians bet around $12.5 billion on horse racing.

As such, it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you get involved in any betting. For starters, here are the different kinds of horse races in Australia:

Thoroughbred Races

Thoroughbred racing is the most popular kind of horse racing in Australia. From simple sprints to long-distance events, thoroughbred racing is a sport that tests speed, stamina, and skill that emphasizes complete coordination between the jockey and the horse. It’s often referred to as “flat racing” because it takes place on a flat track with no obstacles or jumps.

Typically, these kinds of horse races range between 1000 metres to 3200 metres and differ in status depending on the quality of the race itself and the horses competing.

Handicap Races

A handicap race is a kind of race wherein the racecourse handicapper assigns horses a weight based on their past performances to create a hypothetical level playing field. The Melbourne Cup is Australia’s most popular handicap race.

Weight-For-Age Races

These kinds of races involve each horse carrying a weight based on their age. The weight that the horse will carry increases the older the horse is. The WS Cox Plate is Australia’s most popular Weight for Age race.

Set Weight Races

Set-weight races are also age-specific races but they differ from weight-for-age races in the sense that all the entrants must carry the same set weight.

Maiden Races

A Maiden Race is a kind of introductory race for horses that have never raced before. These races are not very competitive, but they can be exciting as the horses are learning their way around a track. They also offer a great opportunity to bet on young up-and-comers with potential. Maiden races can also be found in obstacle-course races.

Related: 5 Tips For New Players Betting Maiden Races

Harness Races

Harness racing is a different kind of horse racing in which horses race while pulling two-wheeled carts called a “sulky” behind them. A driver sits on the sulky, controlling the horse by using reigns and tapping it with a long light whip as they race around the track.

Instead of using Thoroughbreds, harness racing uses Standardbred horses. These horses have been bred and developed to possess shorter legs and longer bodies.

The most popular harness racing event is the Inter Dominion Series which is held yearly in Australia. Other notable harness races include the Victoria Derby, the Australian Derby, and the NSW Derby. 

Group & Listed Races

Each race has a different status depending on the quality and horses participating. Races that are considered by the Australian Racing Board to be of a higher standard are classified into four different kinds of racing categories.

Group 1 Races

Group 1 races are the most prestigious in thoroughbred racing, featuring notable events like the Melbourne Cup, Victoria Derby, and Cox Plate. These races offer substantial prize money, with the Melbourne Cup leading at $7,750,000.

Group 2 Races

Group 2 races offer a minimum of $125,000 in prize money and are held during major racing carnivals like the Melbourne Spring Carnival. Over 80 races fall into this category, including the Premier Stakes, The Ingham, and the Arrowfield Sprint.

Group 3 Races

Group 3 races have lower prize money and prestige compared to Group 1 and 2 races but are still significant. They offer a minimum of $75,000 and include races like the Carbine Club Stakes, Lexus Hotham Stakes, and VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes, with over 110 races in a season.

Listed Races

While listed races are less prestigious than the Group status races, they offer horses the chance to develop and improve their skills before entering higher-level races. Additionally, there are 280 races per season.

In terms of prize money, winners can get at least $50,000. 

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