Flat races in Britain and Ireland are run over a range of distances, from five furlongs to two miles and six furlongs. Each race falls in one of three categories based on the distance covered: sprints, middle distance races and staying races. Races from five to seven furlongs arte classed as sprints, middle distance races cover from one mile to one mile and five furlongs and any race over a longer distance is knowing as a race for stayers.
Horses are generally suited to a small range of distances and it takes a special horse to win over sprint and middle distances, and middle distances and races for stayers.
The most prestigious and significant flat races for the breeding industry are run over one mile to one mile four furlongs. The 1,000 and 2,000 Guineas are one mile Classics and the Oaks and Derby are run over 12 furlongs. There are eight furlongs in one mile, so middle distance races are the most valuable and important of the season. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe is the biggest all-aged flat race in Europe and that is run over one mile and four furlongs. Most of the prestigious international races are run over middle distances.
A horse proven over middle distances will have a higher stud value than sprinters and stayers who have won similar races, while a horse’s proven form over a race distance is an important element of form and suitability for a race. Horse racing gamblers must consider distance when assessing a race. When a proven sprinter runs in a middle distance race an extra dimension is added to form and race reading. However, middle distance horses can command the best prize money and stud value. There are now incentives in place to breed more sprinters and stayers.
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