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The term distance has two meanings in horse racing: the journey covered in a race and the gap between horses at the finishing line. The race distance is expressed in furlongs and miles and the margin between horses at the end of a race is expressed in lengths.
Races in Britain are run over distances from five furlongs to more than four miles. Flat races are shorter than races over jumps. Race distances have to be accurate and for each race the distance is shown on the racecard and in media publications.
The result of a race shows the distances between each horse at the finishing line. The time between each horse equates to a distance in lengths.
The distance of a race is important for bettors on horse racing who follow past form. Horses are bred to run in certain types of races and the distance is one of the man factors.
Race distances are measured in miles and furlongs. There are eight furlongs in a mile and 220 yards in a furlong, so a mile race is run over 1760 yards.
In jumps racing chasers are longer than hurdle races and the range of distances is from two miles to four miles and four furlongs.
The distance between horses is an important form indicator for future races. Distances range from a nose to anything over 30 lengths, which is given a generic name of a distance. The finishing distances are calculated by converting the time to a distance based on a scale which varies depending on the nature of a race.
Furlong as a unit of measurement dates back to the Anglo-Saxons, and originally meant the length of a furrow in one acre of a ploughed field. It was the length a team of oxen could plough without needing to rest
It was officially abolished as a unit of measurement outside of racing by the Weights and Measures Act 1985.