Flat racing is the most common form of racing, seen globally. Flat race tracks are usually oval in shape and are generally flat, but in Great Britain and Ireland there is much more variation, including figure of eight tracks, such as Windsor, and tracks with often severe slopes and camber changes, such as Epsom Racecourse. Track surfaces vary with peat most common worldwide, dirt more common in North America, and the newly designed synthetic surfaces, such as Polytrack or Tapeta, seen on some numbers worldwide.
Individual flat races run over distances ranging from 440 yards to two and a half miles, with distances between five and twelve stages being most common. Short races are generally referred to as sprints, while the longer races are known as routes in the US or staying races in Europe.
Although fast acceleration is usually required to win any type of race, generally sprints are seen as a test of speed, while long-distance races are seen as a test of endurance.
The most prestigious flat races in the world, such as the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Japan Cup, Epsom Derby, Kentucky Derby and the Dubai World Cup are run over distances in the middle of this series and are seen as testing both the speed and endurance to a certain extent.
In the most prestigious races, horses are generally assigned to carry the same weight for fairness, with allowances given to younger horses and female horses running against men. These competitions are called conditions races and offer the largest scholarships.
There is another category of races called handicap races where each horse gets a different weight to bear based on its ability. In addition to the weight they carry, the performance of a horse can also be influenced by its position relative to the inside barrier, the gender, the jockey and the trainer.
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