It’s not easy to be expert on all things racing. But don’t worry! We’ll mark your card for you!
Horse racing is made up of two disciplines: flat and jump racing (also known as “National Hunt” in the UK).
Flat races are categorised according to age, sex and class or category.
As is the case in athletics, races are run over specific distances from five furlongs to a mile and seven furlongs. And much like athletes, horses can specialise in sprints and races over middle and longer distances.
Need more info? Then read on!

The disciplines

High-end racing

Flat racing sees horses race at their fastest, achieving average speeds of between 65 and 70km/h. Horses usually carry a weight of between 51 and 65kg, jockey and saddle combined.

The classic flat distance is a mile and a half and the top jockeys ride more than 1,000 races a year.

In flat races, horses are positioning in starting stalls that are numbered from the rail to the outside of the track. Once all the horses are in the stalls, they open and the race begins. Flat races are run over distances of between five furlongs and two miles and six furlongs.

A draw is held to determine their starting positions in the stalls. Number 1 is the most coveted position as it is railside and offers the shortest distance to travel.

France Galop flat racecourses: ParisLongchamp, Saint-Cloud, Chantilly, Deauville.

Excitement guaranteed

Jump races are usually run over longer distances than flat: between one mile and seven furlongs and four miles and three furlongs. The legendary Grand Steeple Chase de Paris weighs in at three miles and six furlongs.

In jump racing, the horses assemble behind a starting tape, which is raised to indicate the start of the race. The horses then have a clear a series of jumps on their way to the finish line.

There are three types of jumps: hurdles and steeplechase and cross-country jumps.

France Galop jump racecourse: Auteuil.

The various categories of racing

    The highest category of racing. There are just 37 Group I races a year: 28 in Flat racing and 9 in Jump racing.



    The second-highest category. Only 35 held a year : 24 in Flat racing and 11 in Jump racing.


    The third highest. Some 91 races a year: 62 in Flat racing and 29 in Jump racing.


    The level just below Group level.


    Horses must meet certain conditions (age, race, sex, number of wins or earnings, etc).


    The best horses are given more weight to carry to ensure, in theory, that all the horses run on a fair basis and have the same chances of winning.


    All the horses taking part may be bought at the end of the race.


    Respectively for horses who have never run before or won before.


The equipment used by jockeys and horses is vital to their safety. This equipment is regulated by the Racing Code.

Protects the head from blows.

Tight-fitting, it offers optimal protection to the upper body.

Worn over the jacket, they allow easy identification of the jockey in a pack of horses and come in the owner’s colours.

Worn over the helmet, the cap also comes in the owner’s colours.

Short, knee-length trousers that are very light so as not to weigh the jockey down. Waterproof breeches are worn for races in winter.

An aid to encourage or steer a horse.

The equipment used by jockeys and horses is vital to their safety. This equipment is regulated by the Racing Code.

Keeps down noise that may otherwise distract the horse.

In racing, saddles come with very short stirrups to allow jockeys to adopt a racing position in the saddle in which they weigh as little as possible on the horse, so as not to slow them down.

Support the jockey’s feet while riding and help them mounting the horse.

Used by the jockey guide the horse safely around the track.

These are fitted on horses that may be easily distracted or frightened to reduce their field of vision and allow them to focus on the race.

Protects the horse’s back from chafing caused by the saddle. Race numbers are also attached to saddle covers.

The racecourse

What goes on there?
This is where the horses are prepared for their races before they are taken out to the track.
Every horse is allocated a stable when they arrive at the racecourse.
After the race, horses are showered, dried and watered.
They can drink up to 60 litres of water after a race.
The stables are where they are taken care of before and after races.

Horses deserve some TLC after a hard race, including a shower and some pampering.
Everything is set up for their well-being at the racetrack.

Just like athletes, horses are subject to drug testing, with vets taking blood and urine samples.

They ensure that the races are run in a legal way and in accordance with the French horse racing code.

– Before the race: they approve any requests to change the schedule.

– During the race: they ensure the race is run as per the regulations.

– After the race: if required, they launch an enquiry and, after talking to the professionals concerned, take any necessary action (penalties, disqualifications, etc.).

Jockeys are weighed here before and after races.

Jockeys are weighed to make sure that everyone has a fair and equal chance at the start of races.
Their body weights are stated on the racecard. If a jockey is too light, lead weights are added to their saddle.

The best spot for watching races and cheering horses on.

The horses parade around the paddock before the race, giving punters the chance to pick their favourite.
You’ll also see trainers giving jockeys advice and instructions before they climb into the saddle.

This is where horses express themselves and give their all in pursuit of victory.

Every horse wants to be the first to reach the winning post.

Three minutes after the race, the first five horses make their return to the paddock.
The winner makes their way to the centre of the paddock.
The winner’s entourage receive their prize and pose for the traditional photo.


In France, as in most of the rest of Europe, the flat racing season runs from spring to autumn. In winter, grass racetracks can become impracticable. In years gone by, the well-to-do would spend the winter months in the south of France, with racing decamping to its winter quarters in Cagnes-sur-Mer, for example. That’s still the case, but with improvements being made to racetracks, both in the north and the south, the flat season runs for longer than it used to.
The most prestigious races are still held in the summer.

As for jump racing, it is more of a winter discipline, for the simple reason that it initially took its cues from hunting with hounds.
However, while the jump calendar at Auteuil is made up of two seasons – spring and autumn – provincial racecourses hold jump meets through the summer. For their part, Cagnes-sur-Mer and Pau racetracks, where the climate is warmer, have winter meetings.

Guide to horse racing


Interested in the world of racing and want to know more about this fascinating world? We’ll help you become an expert in the sport! Then it’s up to you to put your knowledge into practice by visiting our racecourses. You’ll always find a reason: for the passion of the sport, to admire and encourage the horses and jockeys close-up, or simply to enjoy our events and share good times with family and friends.
From the disciplines and categories to the equipment and racecourses – just follow the guide, and we’ll explain everything!