Flat Horse Racing – The Ultimate Guide

A flat horse racing across the turf, in a mid 20th century painterly style

The sport of kings is what we do best here at Allsported and this is our ultimate guide to flat horse racing. As the number one odds and data provider for horse racing, we pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of the industry and on this page, we will examine every aspect of this wonderful sport.

How To Bet On Flat Horse Racing

First of all, we will try to help you in your quest to find more flat horse racing winners. It must be said that there is no definitive, correct answer to the question ‘how to bet on flat horse racing’. There’s more than one way to skin a cat and punters use a variation of methods to pinpoint winning bets. We’ll look at some of them below.


The most obvious starting point is reading the form. On your race card the most recent form figures (where a horse finished in its last race) are listed to the left hand side of the horse’s name. For example, if a horse finished sixth, fourth and fifth on its last three runs the form figures would read 645 (most recent run on the right).

Looking at the basic form figures gives punters a rough idea of how a horse has been running but they don’t always tell the full story. Was the horse blocked in its run? Did it miss the start? Did it go off too fast? This is why it is key to delve deeper into the form and ideally, watch replays to see what has happened in their previous races.

Video Replays

This is one of the most important resources available to horse racing bettors. Free video replays can be accessed across a couple of racing websites and it is always worth looking back at previous runs before backing a horse. The more races you watch, the better your eye will become and that will hopefully help you to back winners more frequently.

Ground Conditions

A wise old punter once said that the three most important factors to consider when backing a horse are the ground, the ground and the ground. Some horses are only effective on a sound surface (good to firm/good), some horses act on ground with a slight ease in it (good to soft) whereas some horses absolutely relish it when the mud is flying (soft/heavy).

It always makes sense to check the going (and the weather forecast) before you have a bet because backing horses on the wrong ground rarely ends well.

All Weather Flat Racing

Synthetic surfaces are also used for horse racing. In the UK there are six all weather tracks, all with either polytrack or tapeta surfaces. Some horses are all weather specialists and while there are all weather meetings throughout the year, the all weather regulars usually do most of their racing in the winter months.

UK All Weather Racetracks
RacetrackSurface Type

Understanding Handicapping

Handicaps are races in which weight is used to level the playing field. This enables horses of varying ability to run against each other and theoretically, if the handicapper rates them correctly, they should all finish in a dead heat.

Obviously, that very rarely happens and this is because winners are usually what is described as ‘ahead of the handicapper’. To earn a handicap mark, horses must run three times in novice or maiden company. The handicapper (or assessor) awards them a mark (rating) on the ability they have shown in those three races.

What a lot of trainers do is run their horse over the wrong distance or on the wrong ground in their three qualifying runs. This ensures they do not show their full ability, thus they get a handicap rating which is lower than their actual ability.

So, when they get their optimum conditions, they are ‘ahead of the handicapper’ and they often win or place. If you can learn how to spot these horses, you’ll back plenty of winners and very often, at decent odds.


You will often hear pundits talking about value. So what is value in horse racing? Most simply put, it is the art of finding horses that have been chalked up at the wrong odds by bookmakers.

Sometimes the oddsmakers can take their eye off the ball and they don’t fully read a horse’s form when pricing up the race, especially if it is an outsider. If you can consistently find double figure priced horses that should be 4/1 or 5/1, you’ll make plenty of money in the long term.

It must also be said that an even money shot can also be value. The profits won’t be quite as substantial as finding value at big odds, but if you can regularly find even money bets that should be long odds on, you’ll definitely turn a profit over time.


For a more mathematical approach to finding value some punters like to look at the overrounds of betting markets. When bookmakers price up a race, the overround is the measure of their profit margin, usually given as a percentage.

If a bookmaker was pricing up a race without a profit margin, the sum of the percentage chance of each horse winning would add up to 100%. However, all bookmakers form markets that add up to over 100% and the higher the overround, the more profit the bookies make.

Get the best flat horse racing odds

Last, but not least, always make sure you get the best flat racing odds. They can vary massively between bookmakers for individual horses and one of the keys to maximising profits when betting on flat horse racing is finding the best odds for every single bet you place.

If you back a winner at 10/11 rather than 11/10, the difference may seem relatively small but do that for 100 bets and it really adds up over time. That’s why getting the best flat horse racing odds is absolutely vital.

Key Flat Races/Meetings

The flat season usually starts in late March/early April with the Doncaster Lincoln Meeting. The key flat race meetings in the UK include the 1000 and 2000 Guineas, Royal Ascot, the Epsom Derby and Oaks and Champions Day at Ascot. Internationally, the Prix De l’Arc de Triomphe is one of the most important flat races.

1000 & 2000 Guineas Newmarket

Held at Newmarket at the end of April or in early May. The 1000 Guineas is a Group 1 mile contest for fillies only that is run on the Rowley Mile. Past winners include Mawj, Sky Lantern, Finsceal Beo and Minding.

The 2000 Guineas is run over the same course and distance and it is open to both colts and fillies, but no filly has won the race since Garden Path in 1944.

Winners of the 2000 Guineas usually go on to have careers as stallions at stud. Some of the best recent winners include Saxon Warrior, Churchill, Frankel and Camelot. The race is considered to be the first leg of the UK ‘Triple Crown’.

Last 5 Guineas Winners
Year1000 Guineas Winners2000 Guineas Winners
2024ElmalkaNotable Speech
2021Mother EarthPoetic Flare

Royal Ascot

This is one of the most important meetings of the flat season. Five days of racing in the month of June, multiple Group 1 races, top 2yo races and some extremely valuable handicaps. Owners and trainers must adhere to a strict dress code (top hats and tailcoats) and this adds to the whole experience.

Some of the key Royal Ascot Group 1 races are the Coventry Stakes, Queen Mary Stakes, Commonwealth Cup, St James’ Palace Stakes, Prince Of Wales’s Stakes, Ascot Gold Cup & The Platinum Jubilee Stakes.

Epsom Derby & Oaks

The Epsom Derby is the race that most owners and breeders covet the most. The huge operations like Coolmore, Godolphin and Juddmonte are all desperate to win the Derby and they aim their best colts at it every year. It is the second leg of the UK Triple Crown.

Due to the unique characteristics of the Epsom track, this mile and a half race is considered the ultimate test of speed, stamina and balance in a racehorse and many winners go on to have lucrative careers at stud. Memorable winners include Harzand, Sea The Stars, Motivator and Galileo.

The Oaks is restricted to fillies and it is also run over the same course and distance. Just like the Derby, the big boys are very keen to win it and in recent years, Aidan O’Brien has dominated. He has won it ten times since Shahtoush first won for him in 1998 but he still lags behind the record of 13 wins, held by Robert Robson.

Last 5 Epsom Derby & Oaks Winners
YearEpsom Derby WinnersOaks Winners
2023Auguste RodinSoul Sister
2022Desert CrownTuesday
2019Anthony Van DyckAnapurna

Doncaster St Leger

The St Leger at Doncaster is the third and final leg of the Triple Crown. It is the longest of the three Triple Crown races at 1 mile 6 furlongs and the emphasis is more on stamina than speed. The last horse to land the Triple Crown of 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby and St Leger was the mighty Nijinsky all the way back in 1970.

The last horse to get close to winning the Triple Crown was Camelot in 2012 who won the 2000 Guineas and Derby, but he just came up short in the St Leger.

Last 5 St Leger Winners
YearSt Leger Winners
2022Eldar Eldarov
2021Hurricane Lane
2020Galileo Chrome

British Champions Day Ascot

One of the best race meetings of the year. Inaugurated in 2011, this meeting is the last big day on the flat racing calendar. Held in October, there’s over 4 million in prize money up for grabs across six races, including four Group 1s, a Group 2 and a mile handicap.

The meeting serves as the finale for the British Champions Series and it is usually the meeting where soft ground horses get their chance to shine. The five group races include the Long Distance Cup, Sprint Stakes, Fillies’ & Mares’ Stakes, Queen Elizabeth II Stakes & the Champion Stakes.

Prix De L’Arc De Triomphe

The Prix De L’Arc de Triomphe, affectionately known as ‘The Arc’, is France’s premier race. Run at Longchamp over a mile and a half, this is one of the most valuable horse races on the planet. The total prize fund is £5 million and the winner takes home a cool £2.8m.

Enable is the most recent multiple winner. She won it in 2017 and 2018 but her hat trick bid in 2019 was foiled by Waldgeist. Quite a few horses have completed the Epsom Derby/Arc double, including the brilliant Sea The Stars in 2009.

Last 5 Prix de L’Arc De Triomphe Winners
YearPrix De L’Arc de Triomphe Winners
2023Ace Impact
2021Torquator Tasso

Top 5 Flat Trainers

So, who are the best flat trainers? In Ireland Aidan O’Brien has the most ammunition and he tends to dominate at the top table. He doesn’t have it all his own way in the UK and Europe though. The likes of John and Thady Gosden, Charlie Appleby, William Haggas and Andrew Balding are all top class handlers capable of producing horses to win the biggest races.

Trainer2023 Winners UK & Ireland
Andrew Balding145
William Haggas141
John & Thady Gosden130
Aidan O’Brien128
Charlie Appleby106

Who is the best flat horse trainer?

This is not an easy question to answer as there are so many excellent flat horse trainers. Aidan O’Brien certainly deserves a mention but he has almost unlimited ammunition. The late Henry Cecil is widely considered one of the best flat horse trainers of all time and his legacy lives on through the best he has ever trained, the mighty Frankel.

Top 5 Flat Jockeys

Obviously, it is up to the trainer to get his horse to the racetrack in tip top condition. However, once the race starts it is out of their hands and it is up to the jockey to ensure the horse achieves the best finishing position possible.

On the biggest days you need a pilot who doesn’t get nervous and who isn’t fazed by the size of the occasion. Ryan Moore currently rides for Coolmore and as far as jobs go, they don’t come much bigger than that. He is clearly one of the best in the business but the likes of Rossa Ryan, William Buick, Tom Marquand and Oisin Murphy are all top jockeys too.

Jockey2023 Winners UK & Ireland
William Buick135
Oisin Murphy106
Rossa Ryan104
Tom Marquand102
Ryan Moore97

Who is the top flat jockey at the moment?

So, who is the top flat jockey at the moment? Going by the numbers, William Buick is probably the top flat jockey right now. He is Godolphin’s number one jockey so he isn’t just winning run of the mill races, he is competing regularly at the very top. The Norway born pilot has already won five classics (3x St Leger, 1x Derby & 1x 2000 Guineas) and a host of Group 1s in the UK, Ireland, Dubai & USA.

Flat Horse Racing – What makes a good horse?

So, what makes a good horse on the flat? Well, there are a few key attributes that top flat racehorses usually possess but there are some traits that might be useful over longer distances rather than sprint trips, and vice versa.

On the flat, depending on the distance of the race, you need a horse with either speed or stamina or a mixture of both. Most top horses have good temperaments and don’t get too worked up before racing.

Over longer distances, ideally a horse should have a calm, quiet disposition. This will help them to settle in a race and see out the trip better. In sprint races, being too relaxed can be a disadvantage and top sprinters are usually a bit hot headed.

Stride Length

Another thing to consider is the stride length of a horse. The longer a horse’s stride pattern is, the less strides it takes to get from A to B. However, having a shorter stride pattern can mean a horse is more nimble so there are pros and cons to both.

Horses that possess a long stride length are usually best suited to straight, galloping tracks like Newmarket and Ascot. Those with shorter stride patterns usually thrive around tight, turning tracks like Chester.


When does the flat horse racing season start?

The UK flat horse racing season starts in late March/early April. The first big race of the season is the Lincoln Handicap at Doncaster and the first juvenile race of the season is the Brocklesby at that same meeting.

Is flat horse racing cruel?

No, horse racing is not cruel. Horses like to gallop in nature and they enjoy competing against each other. They are cared for in the equivalent of a five star hotel, they eat the best of food and they are kept in the best possible physical condition.

What is the longest flat horse race?

The longest flat horse race on the UK calendar is the Queen Alexandra Stakes. This contest is run at Royal Ascot every year and the race distance is 2 miles, 5 furlongs & 143 yards.

Are jump horses bigger than flat horses?

Not necessarily. Size can be an advantage in chases but plenty of small horses have thrived jumping fences, Il Etait Temps being a recent example. Winning jump and flat horses come in all shapes and sizes and attitude is probably more important than size.