Types of Racing

With over 366 race meetings at 50 racecourses across New Zealand, there is certainly plenty of choice of racing but what type of racing is on offer to racegoers. Meetings can range from high profile Festivals, such as Auckland Cup Week which is renowned for its social scene and fashion as much as its top class racing, to small 'once a year' country meetings which are very community focused and great fun but the racing is often of a lot lower standard.

Race Class

So how are different races categorised? Below are the main types of race in New Zealand.

  • Group - These are the very top echelon of races which are divided into Group 1 (the very best races including the Classics), Group 2 (just below championship standard) and Group 3 (often attracting quality horses, many of which are trials for Group 1 and 2 races).
  • Listed - Just below Group races, these are designed to identify racehorses of superior merit but below Group Standard.
  • Handicap - A race in which the weight each horse is to carry is individually allotted by the official NZTR handicapper who adjusts the weights according to past performance - the goal being to give all horses in a raced a theoretically equal chance of winning. Handicap races typically have a larger number of runners than Group or Listed races and often the barrier draw (what side of the track it starts from) can make a difference to the horse's chances.
  • Maiden - A race for horses who have not yet won a race. A racehorse can earn a very reasonable living for its connections and still remain a maiden, racking up plenty of place prizemoney.

Race Distance

Flat Races vary in distance and depending on a horse's breeding it is suited to one type of distance over another. One of the key signs of a champion racehorse is one that can win over a wide range of distances. Below are the main categories of distance.

Sprints (1000 - 1500m)
Mile (1600m)
Middle Distance (1800m - 2400m)
Staying (over 2400m)

Jump Racing

Whilst far less prominent than Flat racing, Jump racing also takes place in New Zealand with many racecourses also featuring a track for Steeplechasing (over large brush fences) and Hurdling (over smaller batton hurdle fences). Jump racing generally takes place during the winter months from March to early November.