Horse racing

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Horse races in Kentucky , Churchill Downs

Horse races are a branch of horse racing . In this equestrian sport , the horses cover a certain distance as quickly as possible. All gaits are allowed.

The aim is to get from start to finish as quickly as possible without hindering the other against the rules. Since the gallop is the fastest way of moving the horse, these races are always done at a gallop. Horse races are mainly contested by English thoroughbred horses, but they are also advertised for Arabian thoroughbreds , half-bloods and sometimes ponies . The horses are either ridden by jockeys (professional riders) or amateurs, in both cases a certain weight, which the horse has to carry, must not be exceeded or undercut. Horse races are held in the crowd over short distances. Distances greater than 25 km are covered in endurance riding .


The announcement regulates the exact modalities of a particular race. These include in particular the place, time, distance, allocation and determination of the horses entitled to participate (definition of the racing (performance) class addressed). These tenders are created in Germany by the organizing racing club in coordination with the DVR. The DVR ( Directorate for Thoroughbred Breeding and Races ) monitors the regularity of the races organized as horse performance tests. On a normal racing day (racing event) 7 to 12 races are advertised for different performance classes of horses.

There are no “open races” for horses of different breeds in Germany.

Prize money

The prize money to be won by the successful horses depends on the importance of the race. The higher the horse's race class to be tested / tested, the higher the prize money. There are usually cash prizes for the four horses placed first in a race, in exceptional cases also for the fifth or sixth, in a ratio of about 10: 4: 2: 1. In Germany, a distinction is made between races in class A and B, whereby the total award is made up of races Class B is less than 2000 € (regulated in the race regulations).

The internationally standardized group and list races must guarantee a basic funding. Currently

  • € 12,000 for the winner of a list race,
  • € 40,000 for the winner of a Group III race and
  • € 90,000 for the winner of a Group I race.

The most highly endowed race in the world is the Dubai World Cup with $ 6,000,000 for the winner alone.

Flat race

In flat races, the racetrack leads through unobstructed terrain - nowadays always a special horse racing track - which can have inclines but does not require any jumps. The race distances in Germany vary between 1000 m (flying races, sprints) and 3400 m (standing races) (as of 2007). Flat races over distances of 800 m to 4200 m are also held abroad.

In Germany, flat races are held on grass tracks and on sand tracks (especially in Neuss and Dortmund ), although the course is different. In the Swiss holiday resorts of Arosa and St. Moritz , horse races are held annually in January and February on a frozen lake.

Weight race

In weight-up races (also called age-weight races), the horses are assigned weights that they have to carry during the race, depending on their age, gender and, if applicable, their previous success.

Compensation race (handicaps)

Horse racing, Memorial Day Weekend, Arlington Park Race Course, Chicago , Illinois , 2007

In the equalization race, the equalizer (handicapper) assigns weights to the horses according to their previous performance, which they have to carry in the race so that all participants in the race have the same chance of victory as possible (see hand-in-cap ). The weights that horses carry in equalization races are derived from the general equalization ("GA").

There are four equalization classes in German flat races:

  • Compensation I (very good, corresponds to the "first Bundesliga" division in football, approx. Scale = GAG deduction: GAG minus 28 kg)
  • Compensation II (good, approx. Scale: GAG minus 18 kg)
  • Compensation III (average, approximate scale: GAG minus 8 kg)
  • Compensation IV (lower classes, analogous to the "national leagues" in football, approx. Scale: GAG plus / minus 0 kg)

three compensation classes in obstacle races:

  • Compensation G (good)
  • Compensation M (middle)
  • Compensation U (lower classes)

Compensatory races for three-year-olds are no longer held. For this, however, earlier opportunities for three-year-olds have been created in the compensations I to IV. Also not organized Rennquintett -Ausgleiche after lottery hired this bet in of 2003. Compensations G for obstacle horses are currently hardly available, because the performance of the active obstacle horses does not reach this level.

On June 17, 2008, an equalization race was held in Germany for the first time, in which the scale was only set by the equalizer on the day of the entry deadline. This race took place on the Cologne-Weidenpesch racecourse .

Breeding races

A breeding race is a flat race in which all horses of a year, with the exception of the mare permit, carry the same weight. (No. 255 of the German Racing Regulations). In the narrower sense, only the classic, group and list races are breeding races.

Classic races

German Derby, Hamburg-Horn, 1912

Classic races are breeding races for three-year-old horses. These include:

  • the Derby , the most important race for three year old horses. A derby (distance: 1 1/2 English miles = approx. 2414 m) is held in almost every country in the world. Name variations: USA: Kentucky Derby ; France: Prix du Jockey Club.
  • the 1000 Guineas, (distance: 1 mile = approx. 1609 m) exclusively for mares. Also called the Henckel race in Germany.
  • the 2000 Guineas, (distance: 1 English mile = approx. 1609 m) for stallions and mares. Also called the Mehl-Mülhens race in Germany.
  • the price of Diana , the "Stutenderby", named after the French. Prix ​​de Diane. English "The Oaks".
  • the St. Leger , usually the last classic to be held over a standing distance of 1 3/4 miles = approx. 2800 meters; the St. Leger is the oldest of the classic races (since 1776); since 2007, horses older than three years of age have also been allowed to compete in the German St. Leger.

Group race

Group races are weight races that are classified internationally. This makes it possible to compare the services internationally. There are races in groups I to III. In group I are the most important races.

List races

List races are weight races whose performance level, like that of group races, is monitored internationally. List races are breeding races that rank below group races in importance and funding (they are practically a "Group IV"). As with group races, victories and placements in list races may be listed in auction catalogs, stating the race title in bold block letters (so-called "black type" races).

Sales races

Sales races are obstacle or flat races in which the participating horses are for sale. The weight to be borne by the horse results from the age and sex of the horse and from the so-called stake price, i.e. the amount that the owner of the horse sets as the minimum purchase price. After the race, interested parties can submit bids for the participating horses; these are thrown on pieces of paper into a box provided for this purpose. If there are several bids for a horse, the bidder with the highest bid will receive it; if there is no bid for a horse, it will remain with its previous owner. Sales races are rare in Germany; in other countries (e.g. France) these take place frequently.

Anyone interested has the opportunity to buy a horse in advance that has been specified as a starter in a sales race (claim). The purchase price is then the stake price of the horse and the winning price of the race.

If the horse is sold at a higher price than the stake price after the race, the organizing racing club will receive the excess amount.

In Germany, only the winner will be auctioned after the sales race.

Diana Prize, Düsseldorf, 2017

Mare race

Only mares are allowed to start in mare races. These can be advertised in connection with other types of races such as group races. The most famous mare races in Germany are the Diana Prize and the German 1000 Guineas . The two races belong to the classic races.

Half-blood race

Half-blood races are held both on the flat track and over jumps. Only horses that come from half-breed breeding are allowed to start here, i.e. they are not pure thoroughbreds. The term half-blood is a bit misleading, because most of the horses starting there have a whole blood content of over 95%. The French call this type of horse AQPS Autre que pur sang . Pur sang, "pure blood", is the term for thoroughbreds in France, and accordingly half- bloods are different from pure blood there .

Half-bloods are characterized primarily by their greater tenacity and are therefore mainly used in obstacle sports. They compensate for the lack of top speed with greater endurance and tenacity. In the heyday of obstacle sports, many great hunting races were won by half-breeds.

Heat (heat races)

Heatrennen are races over several runs, ie the same horses compete against each other several times. A horse wins a heat race if it has beaten its opponents twice. The runs take place on the same day at hourly intervals. Heats are the archetype of horse racing. In the 17th and 18th centuries, heat races were over 3 or 4 English. Miles (approx. 4800 or 6400 m) common. These races were not run at a consistently high pace (gallop) as they are today, in the initial phase the pace was rather leisurely and only when the distance post was passed (approx. 200 m from the finish) did the gallop "really". In a way, these races were similar to sprint races in track cycling today and were heavily influenced by tactics, because the horse that came first usually had the advantage. It could also be agreed that the riders could whip each other - horse races were almost a duel back then.

In the early phase of horse racing, decision runs were also held when horses were the first to cross the finish line in the “dead heat”.

Heatrennen there are today only in harness racing, z. B. The German Trotting Derby will be decided in preliminary and final runs on the same day.

Obstacle race

Obstacle races are announced for horses specially bred for this purpose. Because the distance of obstacle races is longer than in flat races and the average pace is consequently slower, horses that have proven to be too slow in flat races are also used in obstacle races for lower performance classes. Obstacle races and flat races are different sports: Horses that can do little in flat races are often great masters in obstacle races and vice versa.

Hunting races (steeplechase)

Hunting races

Hunting races lead over fixed obstacles (hedges, walls, ditches) over a distance of 3000 to 7200 m. This results in a greater risk of injury to horse and rider than in flat races.

Hunting races lead over a "cross-country track" within the racecourse or directly after the racecourse. Only a few lanes also have a racetrack that is not visible from the grandstand (e.g. Vittel / France). In addition to the hunting and hurdling jumps, the hunting races have numerous natural obstacles such as ditches, tree trunks, water and dry ditches, walls, jumps and jumps, water crossings, combinations of two and three as well as abrupt changes of direction and demand great jumping ability and great agility from the horse. Hunting races are widespread in France ( Pau , Lion de Angers , Craon, Le Pin, Vittel, Saumur and many more), Switzerland (Maienfeld, Aarau, Frauenfeld) and Italy (Meran, Treviso). In France and Switzerland (since 2009) there is a cross-championship for specialists. The most famous hunting races are the Gran Premio delle Nazioni in Meran / Italy, the Grand Cross de Craon in Craon and the Anjou-Loire Challenge (list race, with 7300 m longest obstacle race) in Lion de Angers (France).

Steeplechase - the English term for hunting races - literally means church tower races, because originally these races were held cross-country from one church tower to the next, whereby the aim was to jump over various obstacles on the way there. Well-known steeplechases are the Grand National in Aintree near Liverpool , England and the Velká Pardubická in today's Czech Republic . These races are regularly accompanied by protests from animal rights activists .


Sea chase

Sea hunting races are hunting races in which the course guidance requires crossing a lake. In Germany there are courses for sea hunt races on the racetracks of Bad Harzburg , Hamburg-Horn and Quakenbrück . On the Hamburg racecourse, the lake is so deep that the horses could barely touch the bottom of the lake. However, the horses are faster when they swim through the lake. At sea hunting races, the course of the race and the result are often decided by crossing the lake.


In contrast to hunting races, hurdle races lead over movable, smaller brushwood hurdles. In addition, unlike hunting races, hurdle races are always run on a circuit, i.e. on the racetrack. Hurdle races are between 2400 and 4000 m long. The currently only hurdle races on snow worldwide take place as part of the Arosa horse races .

Horse racing tracks

There are horse races on all five continents and in many countries. In Germany there are currently 47 horse racing tracks. The largest is the Iffezheim race course near Baden-Baden, the second largest in Hoppegarten near Berlin. See the navigation bar for horse racing tracks in Germany .

Well-known racehorses

Ever since the results of horse races have been documented, around the beginning of the 18th century, there have been a large number of racehorses that have achieved fame. A growing number of short portraits, especially of German horse racing horses, can be found in the category: race horses .

Racing boots

Well-known German racehorses are for example Danedream , Novellist , Sea the Moon and Pastorius .



It is criticized that performance training begins at the age of 20 months.

As a rule, a horse's racing career ends when it passes the age of four. If the horse was successful, it is mostly used for breeding , otherwise it is often sold at this point in time. Leisure riders sometimes criticize that former racehorses are not well suited as leisure horses because they had traumatic experiences on the racetrack. Unridable former racehorses are often slaughtered. This is seen by some as a point of criticism.

It is doubtful that racehorses have enough grazing and long enough exercise.

It is claimed that the horse owners make a profit from the prize money and that it is unethical to make money with prize money.

The whip set, which is allowed up to 5 times in a race, is criticized, the rules provide for fines and riding bans in the event of a violation. At the 2016 Hamburg Derby, for example, the winning horse Isfahan's crop was used nine times without being disqualified.


Proponents of the sport counter that racehorses are exclusively thoroughbreds , which are grown significantly faster than other horse breeds. There are scientific findings that indicate that an early approach makes the bone structure more adaptable and stable. Adolescents also do sports in humans, for example gymnastics , although little growth (less than 1 cm per year) can occur up to the age of 24 .

From the side of horse racing it is pointed out that thoroughbred horses would not be suitable as leisure horses even before a racing career due to their temperament and urge to move.

The daily routine in the racing stables has changed so that the horses go to the paddock after training in the afternoon or are given some other form of exercise.

A racehorse is in most cases a losing business, which is usually only pursued as a hobby. The purchase of a racehorse costs between 30,000 and 50,000 euros on average, plus monthly training costs of around 2000 euros. However, the average prize money of a racehorse was only 5,775 euros in 2019.


Special, mostly particularly light, equipment is used for horse racing.

For the race, the riders wear a racing suit and a cap over the jockey helmet in the colors of the stable for which the horse is starting. The jockey's racing boots and pants are lighter than normal riding boots and breeches .

Racing saddles are small and light. They offer the racehorse as much freedom of movement as possible and thus enable high speed. Racing saddles are not suitable for sitting comfortably, instead they enable the racing seat, in which the center of gravity comes from the horse's center of gravity, which is shifted far forward in the gallop, by bending forward in a crouch. The saddle itself can weigh less than 150 grams and, complete with girth, stirrup leathers and stirrups, sometimes weighs just 250 grams. There are also heavier models that weigh around 2 kg. The desired weight can be precisely adjusted with a lead blanket . Before each race, the jockey officially has to weigh in .

Racing snaffles are lighter than normal bridles . If necessary, they can be fitted with nose guards or floor panels.

Odds display after the race

Before the race, the horses are given light racing shoes with aluminum horseshoes .

Horse racing

A large part of the event costs and prices in horse racing are borne by horse betting by the visitors at the venue itself and the weather at the bookmakers .

Horse racing as a game idea

Petits-chevaux table, Swiss Game Museum

The popularity of horse racing and the associated opportunity to bet was the reason to use horse racing for games. This is how the casino game Petits chevaux and the smaller games of chance Horse Race (or Racing Aces ), Minoru (named after a racehorse King Edward VII. ), Sandown after the racecourse Sandown Park etc.

But horse racing has always inspired game developers in the recent past: There is an arcade game Steeplechase ( Atari , 1975) and an Atari 2600 game of the same name . These games are similar in appearance to mechanical horse racing. There is also a mechanical version at fairs.

Individual evidence

  1. Directory for Thoroughbred Breeding and Races: First equalization race in which the scale was determined by the equalizer on the day the entry closes ( Memento from June 11, 2008 in the Internet Archive ).
  2. ^ H. Meier, The Prevention of Injuries (PDF; 1.4 MB).
  3. Maienfeld racetracks .
  4. Race track of the Grand Prix of Merano .
  5. ^ Lion de Angers race tracks .
  6. Information about the Anjou-Loire Challenge, video of last year's race .
  7. Germany map horse racing tracks , accessed on December 30, 2017.
  8. List of German horse racing tracks ( memento from August 1, 2015 in the web archive ), accessed on April 27, 2016.
  9. NDR: The short life of the racehorses. Retrieved June 4, 2018 .
  10. NDR: The short life of the racehorses. Retrieved June 4, 2018 .
  11. ^ German gallop: racing regulations. Retrieved May 2, 2020 .
  12. Sara Peschke: top hewing hurts | NZZ . In: NZZ am Sonntag . November 23, 2016, ISSN  1660-0851 ( [accessed June 4, 2018]).
  13. Jutta Besser-Lahtz: The whole blood . Year Verlag Hamburg, S. 200 .
  14. Franz Daffner: The growth of people. Anthropological study. 2nd Edition. Engelmann, Leipzig 1902, p. 329.
  15. Jutta Besser-Lahtz: The whole blood . Year Verlag Hamburg, S. 200-202 .
  16. German gallop: species- appropriate attitude. Retrieved May 2, 2020 .
  17. Dr. Andreas Bolte: Training facility in the racing team. Retrieved May 2, 2020 .
  18. Roland Dzubasz: training. Retrieved May 2, 2020 .
  19. ^ Baden-Badener Auktionsgesellschaft: Statistics of the auction. Retrieved May 2, 2020 .
  20. ^ German gallop: annual report. Retrieved May 2, 2020 .
  21. - picture example .