Horse Racing Betting: Flat Racing
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Horse Racing Betting: Flat Racing

When virtually everybody in the world pictures a thoroughbred race – their mind visualizes a flat race. While steeplechasing, trotting, long distance racing and point-to-point racing all have their place in the world of equine sports – there is no truer and more honest test of the relationship between man and animal than proper flat racing.

Flat racing may seem unapproachable and difficult to take in at first, but learning the core dynamics of the sport isn't particularly difficult if you are observant. The essential facet of flat racing is examining how the surface that the race is run over interacts with the conditions overhead to affect the pace of the contest while factoring the distance of the race into the equation.

There is an old adage about racing that pace makes the race. A powerful, muscular horse that boasts incredible starting speed is an excellent selection on good ground at a short-distance.

If you make that track wet and yielding while lengthening the race to two miles and suddenly that winning selection doesn't look so great anymore. That type of race is more likely to be won by a larger and leaner animal who boasts balance, stamina and a nice turn of foot in lieu of prime power.

Knowing how to tell the difference between these types of horses become simpler once you have plenty of practice reading and interpreting a racecard.

Surface Types

There are several types of surfaces used in flat racing and they all have their various quirks that impact how races shape up. The majority of races run in the UK and Europe are contested over grass or turf surfaces.

The general rule of thumb with turf racing is that the opening phase of the race is much less important than the final few furlongs.

It is much easier for a horse to quicken its pace over a grass surface than a dirt or synthetic one so punters looking to capitalize on these types of races will do well to look out for contenders with a strong finishing kick and the ability to respond to a jockeys commands quickly and efficiently.

In North America and certain racetracks around the world, you'll find many contests that unfold on a dirt surface. Dirt presents a number of specific challenges depending on the conditions on the track and dirt races tend to be much more about the start of the race than the final furlong. A horse needs to come out of the gate well and position itself early in order to have a better chance of winning.

In a dirt contest, missing the break or being positioned out wide on the track can undo a serious contender very quickly and dirt races are much less forgiving than what you'll find on grass. Additionally, dirt tends to get kicked up into the faces of the other horses and the jockeys so this presents a unique set of problems.

Some horses don't like getting mud or dirt on their face and it will cause them to hold up or not respond to a jockeys instructions. Also, jockeys can sometimes be blinded by the amount of dirt or mud on their goggles.

Many American jockeys will actually wear up to a dozen sets of goggles during a single race if the track is especially muddy. There is a distinct advantage to a horse getting to the front early – there is nobody to kick mud in his face.

Synthetic surfaces are especially quirky and there are a number of different types used. In Europe, you'll find synthetic surfaces referred to as “all weather” where you'll generally find lower-profile contenders running flat racing year-round at places like Wolverhampton and Kempton.

These tracks tend to play more similarly to the American-style dirt courses. In contrast, Meydan Racecourse in Dubai uses a surface called Tapeta that tends to play very much like turf. This means a horse that has run much of its career over grass surfaces likely won't be bothered by the switch in surface – an important handicapping angle that can pay dividends with the bookies.

Examining the Conditions

With these different types of surfaces affecting a race, it's important to examine the other important part of a race before it begins – the conditions of the race. In the UK, Europe and much of the rest of the world, they are dependent on Official Ratings to determine which types of horses run against each other. To keep the contests fair and competitive you won't usually see a horse bought for €1,000 facing off against one that cost €1,000,000.

An official rating takes into consideration how many times the horse has won, how well he has won and against what type of company. If a contender wins several races in company reserved for horses rated 80-95, you'll see his rating climb up and allow him to run at higher levels for more money.

This also keeps an accomplished horse with a 110 rating from dropping down to run against contenders rated 70-85.

In some races, particularly ones for older horses, you'll find a handicap system used where the more accomplished or higher-rated horses must carry additional weight to make the race fair.

If your contender is entered in a race for contenders rated 80-95 and your contender is rated at 83 – he will have to run with much less weight than a contender rated 95 – who will be considered the top weight. Knowing how well horses are able to run carrying various weights is instrumental when betting on these types of contests.

Understanding the dynamics of flat racing means that you will be able to read a form card correctly, interpret the conditions on the ground and overhead, place your wager properly to ensure maximum value and then the ability to decipher why your selection(s) won or lost.

Without that ability, you will not get better at handicapping thoroughbred racing and will do just as well playing a slot machine. The best way to figure out your preferred style of betting is through trial and error so be sure to keep your stakes small and be ready to watch a lot of racing.

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