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In flat racing in the UK race distances range from five furlongs to two miles and six furlongs. The fundamental difference between each race distance is the speed at which the horses travel, but the key attributes for any horse include speed and stamina. The winner of a horse race spends least time travelling from A to B and this applies to all distances.
Horses will run as fast as possible in a sprint race and there will be a slower pace over middle distances and in staying races. Sprint races are the shortest on the track so take the least time to complete.
The minimum distance of races in Britain is five furlongs. There are eight furlongs in a mile so a five furlong contest is a furlong longer than half a mile. In the United States there are specialists called quarter horses because they race over two furlongs, which equates to one quarter of a mile. Sprint races in the UK and Ireland are run over five, six and seven furlongs. Any race over at least one mile to one mile and four furlongs is classed as a middle distance race and longer races are for stayers.
In a five furlong race the objective is to break out of the stalls and then race as fast as possible. The horses do not have a chance to take their breath over the minimum distance as other horses will maintain the gallop.
Sprint races last from about one minute to a minute and a half. Horses that excel in sprints will not be competitive in middle distance and staying races. It’s all about speed and stamina is secondary. The horse with the best pure speed will win a sprint race and when looking at who to back in a sprint race, form and parentage are important.
The most prestigious sprint races of the flat season in Britain are the King’s Stand Stakes, Commonwealth Cup, Diamond Jubilee Stakes, July Cup, Nunthorpe Stakes and Sprint Cup.