With over £7500 profit (750pts) on the Flat season last year from March to October, I am here to give you a simple yet effective guide to the Flat season 2018.
This coming Saturday (24th March) flat turf racing returns to the UK as the season begins at Doncaster. I am personally very excited for the season ahead as a massive flat fan. Although I know that there are plenty people who prefer NH racing and many that might not have a clue about either code, so I have took the time to write this guide to the flat season. Let’s get right into it..🐎
What is Flat racing and what are the differences between it and the jumps?
Most people will know but for those that don’t, Flat racing and jumps racing can be differentiated by their names.. Jumps horses will go over fences or hurdles and never run at a distance below 1m 7f whereas flat racing has no obstacles, horses run anywhere from 4f all the way upto 3m. Many people will also agree that the Jumps season is seen as the more common man code while the flat has the more prestigious feel about it.. more prize money, more expensive horses, better weather, plenty of foreign owners and jockeys etc.. In the end it can be summarised as, the flat is more fast paced and prestigious and the jumps is slower but more passionate, whichever code you prefer is upto yourself.
Distances and Stalls
As mentioned above, one of the key differences between flat and National Hunt races are the distances over which races are ran. Flat racing is defined by three categories.
* Sprints: 4 Furlongs – 1 Mile
* Middle Distance: 1m 1f – 1m 7f
* Stayers: 1m 7f – 3m
Each category has their own quirks and things to look out for when backing a horse. The shorter sprints are mostly defined by sheer speed, looking out for speed in the pedigree of a horse is what will get the best results for you here, especially the extreme short distances such as five and six furlongs.
Middle Distances are a lot more about tactical speed rather than an all out sprint. Jockeys abilities really come into play here and looking at how a horse runs over certain courses is a massive thing to look out for, a lot of middle distance races are decided by who gets the first run and by how jockeys outsmart each other.
Stayers distances are reminiscent of the bumpers you see in National Hunt racing, a lot of it is down to sheer stamina. Something to look out for is the ground and pedigree of the horse, horses that are bred for this distance will have a major advantage but other things to look out for are the ground and the mark of the horse, more so than the other distances due to the stamina at play.
Over jumps a lot of people’s concerns are of their horse will fall or unseat the rider, although that can happen on the flat, it is very rare and will only happen once in a blue moon. The equivalent of that in this code might be the starting stalls.. one of the major gripes a lot of people have with flat is that they don’t feel like they get a run for their money if a horse refuses to race and/or breaks poorly and loses lengths at the start, essentially playing catch up from the offset. This in itself is something you need to look out for when backing a horse, some have reputation of being difficult and refusing to race or continuously breaking poorly and losing lengths. Luckily though nowadays a lot of online bookmakers are quick to refund customers if a horse doesn’t leave the stalls or gets pulled up early on in the race, BetVictor is the most notable one with their ‘Run for your money’ campaign which will refund customers if a horse doesn’t leave the starting stalls.
Another major thing to look out for is draw bias i.e. stall position. This can play a major role in a horses chance of winning a race, especially at certain courses. For example, a front runner drawn in stall 13 hasn’t got a particularly great chance of getting to the front and leading the pack, therefore reducing the chance of success. However a front runner drawn in stall 1 has the plum draw and should make a bold bid. The draw of a horse isn’t the be all and end all and numerous times will you see a horse overcome a difficult draw to win, it’s just something to factor into the equation.
Breeding and Pedigrees
One of the major parts of flat racing is breeding and pedigree. More so than the jumps racing, many horses aren’t suited to a certain surface (mainly in the all weather) and most of the time diving slightly into the pedigree is a key recipe for success. This isn’t something for the average punter to worry about though as more often than not a trainer won’t enter a horse into a race that isn’t suitable for them. My job here as a tipster is to help you guys by looking into this stuff so you might not need to worry as much about it!
Ground and All Weather
Unlike the majority of jumps racing, the flat is ran on two different surfaces. The All Weather (AW) is more used throughout the winter to keep horses fit and to provide racing even in the worst conditions. The all weather in itself has many different surfaces from Fibresand to Polytrack and more.. this is where searching within a horses pedigree is helpful, to see whether their relatives have any form in these conditions.
Turf flat racing is the same as the Jumps, the only slight difference is that it is generally a bit better ground as the flat season goes through the summer. There will still be heavy going and it is important to note that some horses enjoy heavier ground more than others, whereas the majority of flat racehorses will prefer good or fast ground.
Big Races and Festivals
The flat has a lot of big races and festivals throughout the UK, Ireland and The Rest of the World. We’ll cover some of the biggest in this guide.
UK Big Races and Festivals
Qipco 2000 Guineas
The Guineas is the first big race of the season on the flat. First ran in 1809, it is a group one race that is open to three year old runners. It was won last year by the loveable Churchill at a price of 6/4. The race is ran at Newmarket and is scheduled for May 5th, it runs over a distance of one mile and the market is currently headed by Saxon Warrior at 7/1.
Qipco 1000 Guineas
The 1000 guineas is the little sister to the 2000 and is always run on the day after the 2000. Open to three year old fillies only, it was first ran in 1814. It was won last year by Winter. This years market is currently lead by Clemmie at 3/1.
The Investec Oaks otherwise known as simply the Oaks is another group one fillies race. Ran at Epsom, it is the second oldest of the classic races, having been first run in 1779. It is open to three year old fillies and is run over a mile and three furlongs (1m 3f) It was won last year by the amazing Enable. Happily currently tops the market but the race isn’t run until the 1st of June so that is bound to change.
One of the biggest races of the year, simply referred to as the derby. First run in 1780. It is a group one race available to three year old Colts and Fillies, it will be run this year on the 2nd of June. Won last year by Wings of Eagles at a massive 40/1, The Pentagon tops the market for this year’s running at 7/1.
List of Major Flat Festivals in the UK
- Qipco Guineas Festival (Newmarket : 5th – 6th May)
- Boodles May Festival (Chester : 9th – 11th May)
- Dante Festival York (York : 16th – 18th May)
- Derby Festival (Epsom : 1st – 2nd June)
- Royal Ascot (Ascot : 19th – 23rd June)
- Glorious Goodwood (Goodwood : 31st – 4th July/August)
- Ebor Festival (York : 22nd – 25th August)
- St Leger Festival (Doncaster : 12th – 15th September)
- British Champions Day (Ascot : 20th October)
As you can tell there are lots of festivals and big days out with the flat, plenty that didn’t even make that list aswell. I will not be going over these festivals in this guide but I will be posting in depth guides nearer the time once declarations are made.
Irish Big Races and Festivals
Irish flat racing also has its share of big days, most of which mirror the UK. They have the 1000 & 2000 Guineas, The Irish Oaks and the Irish Derby. Most of the same rules apply so it’s not worth highlighting them again.
List of Major Flat Festivals in Ireland
- Killarney May Festival (Killarney : 13th – 15th May)
- Tattersalls Irish Guineas Festival (Curragh : 26th – 27th May)
- The Curragh Derby Festival (Curragh : 29th – 30th June)
- Killarney July Festival (Killarney : 15th – 19th July)
- Curragh Oaks (Curragh : 21st – 22nd July)
- Galway Summer Festival (Galway : 30th – 5th July into August)
Like the UK, Ireland has a lot of competitive and brilliant festivals that require a lot of research and I will be posting full guides closer to the time for you all to get stuck into!
Jockeys and Trainers to Look out for
Just like Nicky Henderson and Nico De Boinville or Wullie Mullins and Ruby Walsh, the flat has distinguished jockey trainer combinations that are useful to look out for.
The most successful jockeys will be listed by course later on in this guide but for now it is strictly a guide to some popular jocks that should catch the eye this season.
Silvestre De Sousa: The 2017 champion jockey on the flat will be a popular pick to retain his crown this year. A freelance jockey, you can see him ride for anyone at any point, watch out for him.
Jim Crowley: The 2016 champion jockey was second in the table last year. He is a retained jockey for Hamdan Al-Maktoum. He will be on the front lines at the big meetings.
Ryan Moore: Notorious for his rather dull personality, Ryan Moore was the most successful jockey last year in terms of prize money. He is a retained ride for champion and record breaking trainer Aiden O’Brien
Andrea Atzeni: A brilliantly talented jock that doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Usually seen riding out for Roger Varian.
Oisin Murphy: The young Irishman is a competent rider for such a young age, one of the stars of the future who is starting the season off well with 40 winners already on the All Weather.
Frankie Dettori: Perhaps the most famous jockey still to ride. Dettori takes a bit of a backseat nowadays but he will still pop up on the big occasion. Don’t expect to be seeing him at a Tuesday night Bath Meeting though.
Colin Keane: The 2017 Irish champion jockey. Him and Pat Smullen rule the irish code and will no doubt be scrapping it out for the title again this year.
Luke Morris: The least ‘successful’ jock on this list in terms of quality of rides and what he’s achieved but he is one to have on your side, especially on the All Weather where he is somewhat of a specialist.
There are far too many jockeys to list here. Some brilliant outsiders aswell such as the battle hardened Franny Norton and Joe Fanning. The godolphin trio of William Buick, Danny Tudhope and James Doyle or even the unpopular but ultra consistent figures of Jamie Spencer and Rab Havlin. Good jockeys are in abundance on the flat but I would look out especially for the ones highlighted above.
Below is a list of the most successful Flat trainers from the 2017 season. This should be able to help you for the upcoming season.
- Aiden O’Brien
- John Gosden
- Mark Johnson
- David O’Meara
- Richard Fahey
- Sir Michael Stoute
- Roger Varian
- William Haggis
- Charlie Appleby
- Saeed Bin Suroor
- Roger Charlton
- Ralph Beckett
- Joseph O’Brien
- J S Bolger
- D K Weld
There are lots more worth mentioning but it would take all too long to go through them all. Everyone of these trainers bring something new to the table so I would stand up and take notice when one of their runners is in the race.
Much like over jumps where Gigginstown and The Riccis dominate the big festivals, there are owners on the flat that you will quickly become familiar with due to seeing their iconic silks in the winners enclosure time and time again. Some of the bigger faces of Flat racing are..
Godolphin: Noticeable for the famous royal blue silks, Godolphin were the leading flat owners last season and I would be shocked if that wasn’t the case again this season. They have the firepower in absolute abundance.
Trainers: Saeed Bin Suroor, Charlie Appleby, John Gosden, Jim Bolger (🇮🇪)
Jockeys: William Buick, James Doyle
Horses: Ribchester, Barney Roy, Hawkbill etc..
Chevely Park Stud: The second most famous colours of the flat, chevely park stud is always contesting the lead with Godolphin for the owners championship.
Trainers: John Gosden, William Haggis, James Fanshawe
Jockeys: Rab Havlin, James Doyle, Luke Morris
Horses: Ulysses, Stealth, Regina Nostra
Juddmonte Farm: Arguably the most famous of them all. Running such amazing horses and dominating the big races last season.
Trainers: John Gosden, Roger Charlton, Michael Stoute
Jockeys: James Doyle, Pat Smullen, Frankie Dettori
Horses: Arrogate, Enable, Frankel
Flat Courses in The UK and Ireland
Below is a list of the courses in the UK and Ireland, alongside them will be the most successful Jockey and Trainer to look out for at the course based on wins gained.
- Ascot (Charlie Appleby, Ryan Moore)
- Ayr (Jim Goldie, PJ Mcdonald)
- Bath (Richard Hannon, David Egan)
- Ballinrobe (H Roger, Chris Hayes)
- Beverley (Richard Fahey, Paul Hanagan)
- Brighton (Gary Moore, Silvestre De Sousa)
- Bellewstown (G M Lyons, Gary Carrol)
- Carlisle (Richard Fahey, Ben Curtis)
- Catterick (Richard Fahey, Jason Hart)
- Chelmsford (Michael Appleby, Adam Kirby)
- Chepstow (Eve Houghton, David Probert)
- Chester (Richard Fahey, Franny Norton)
- Clonmel (W McCleery, W J Lee)
- Cork (G M Lyons, Colin Keane)
- Curragh (Aiden O’Brien, Ryan Moore)
- Doncaster (Richard Hannon, Ryan Moore)
- Dundalk (Joseph O’Brien, Wayne Lordan)
- Epsom (Mark Johnston, Silvestre De Sousa)
- Fairyhouse (J S Bolger, Keving Manning)
- Ffos Las (David Evans, Shane Kelly)
- Galway (Wullie Mullins, Pat Smullen)
- Goodwood (Mark Johnston, Jim Crowley)
- Gowran (G M Lyons, Colin Keane)
- Great Yarmouth (William Haggis, Silvestre De Sousa)
- Killarney (Wullie Mullins, Pat Smullen)
- Hamilton (Keith Dalgliesh, Joe Fanning)
- Haydock (Tom Damscombe, Richard Kingscote)
- Kempton (Richard Dow, Oisin Murphy)
- Laytown (Richard John O’brien, Colin Keane)
- Leicester (Mark Johnston, Silvestre De Sousa)
- Lingfield (Richard Hannon, Adam Kirby)
- Musselburgh (Keith Dalgliesh, Joe Fanning)
- Newbury (John Gosden, Frankie Dettori)
- Newcastle (Jim Goldie, Joe Fanning)
- Newmarket (Charlie Appleby, Ryan Moore)
- Nottingham (Richard Fahey, Silvestre De Sousa)
- Pontefract (David O’Meara, Danny Tudhope)
- Redcar (David O’Meara, Danny Tudhope)
- Ripon (Tim Easterby, Silvestre De Sousa)
- Salisbury (Richard Hannon, Jim Crowley)
- Sandown (Richard Hannon, Ryan Moore)
- Southwell (Michael Appleby, Ben Curtis)
- Thirsk (Richard Fahey, Paul Mulrennan)
- Windsor (Richard Hannon, Jamie Spencer)
- Wolverhampton (Michael Appleby, Oisin Murphy)
- York (William Haggis, James Doyle)
*All Data provided by The Racing Post and is based on number of winners in the 2017 Flat season.
As always we are the number one source for flat tips. In all seriousness. Betting on the flat has very minor differences compared to the jumps. A lot of the time Flat racing can be more competitive than the jumps so it might seem harder to pick winners but I would only argue that it is harder to pick favourites.
The Place Market is your friend on the flat. Many times I’ve seen horse that I fancied get collared in the final strides.. it’s heartbreaking but not nearly as bad if you’ve only backed the selection to place. This market is very useful and can be played to your advantage.
Distance betting is something that I like to do quite a bit nowadays. If an odds on shot is running then chances are it’s going to win, so why not put it on to win by 4+ Lengths for 4x the odds. It’s a brilliant market if used correctly.
Overall, be sensible. Betting on the flat is the same as over jumps, if you’re successful there then you will be here. Stick to a staking plan, know your limits and most importantly, when the fun stops stop.
Thank you all so much for taking the time to read my quick little guide to the flat season. It’s not something huge or particularly earth shattering but I have big plans for the 2019 guide already, I just didn’t have enough time this year. I hope you all have a very successful season and as always I’ll be here everyday with tips. Sharing this guide would be massively appreciated. I’ll see you on twitter.