In horse racing, Flat or National Hunt, a handicap race is a race in which each horse carries a weight determined by its official rating, so that, at least in theory, every horse has an equal chance of winning. To be eligible to run in a handicap, a horse must qualify for an official rating and, to do so, must usually run in three non-handicap, or weight-for-age, races, so that the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) handicapper has the opportunity to assess its level of ability. The official rating of each horse corresponds to its ability, expressed in Avoirdupois pounds, in the eyes of the handicapper. In a handicap race, the horse with the highest official rating carries the heaviest, or ‘top’, weight, while the other horses carry less weight, proportionate to their official ratings. Of course, the official rating of a horse can go up, down or stay the same, depending on how it performs from one race to the next.
Jump racing, also known as National Hunt racing, is the code, or discipline, of horse racing that involves negotiating obstacles, usually in the form of hurdles or fences. Some jump racing does, however, take place on specialist ‘cross country’ or ‘bank’ courses, on which some of the obstacles are more akin to those typically found in open countryside. In Britain, with the exception of some National Hunt Flat races, all jump races are run over an ‘official’ minimum distance of at least 2 miles, although on certain racecourses the advertised distance may be slightly shorter. However, the longest jump race staged in Britain is, unequivocally, the Grand National, nowadays run over 4 miles 2 furlongs and 7 yards, at Aintree Racecourse in April each year. Since the advent of so-called ‘summer jumping’, which began in 1995, jump racing is staged throughout the year, although the National Hunt season ‘proper’ lasts from mid-October to late April or early May.
In horse racing, Rule 4 is an industry-standard rule, which governs the situation in which you have placed a win or each-way bet on a horse, and taken a price, but one or more horses are subsequently withdrawn from the race in question. Obviously, fewer horses in the race increases the likelihood of your horse winning, or being placed, so bookmakers can, quite legitimately, make a ‘Rule 4 deduction’ from your winnings, based on the price of the withdrawn horse(s) at the time of withdrawal. Rule 4 deductions are made on a sliding scale, ranging from 90p per £1 for a horse priced at 1/9, or shorter, to 5p per £1 for a horse priced between 10/1 and 14/1. If two or more horses are withdrawn from the race, more than one Rule 4 deduction may be applied but, in any case, the total deduction cannot ever be more than 90p per £1.
Flat racing – often, but not always, capitalised – is the code, or discipline, of horse racing that involves no obstacles. Flat racing is sometimes referred to as racing ‘on the level’, but some racecourses on which Flat racing is staged are anything but level, with pronounced undulations or severe uphill or downhill gradients. In Britain, Flat races are staged over distances between 5 furlongs and 2 miles 5 furlongs and 143 yards and take place, on turf, during a season that traditionally lasts from late March or early April to early November. However, Flat racing also takes place on the all-weather tracks at Chelmsford, Kempton, Lingfield, Newcastle, Southwell and Wolverhampton all year round.