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Last Updated: Friday, 2 May, 2003, 10:15 GMT 11:15 UK
Flat racing: A global sport
Action from the 1999 Dubai World Cup meeting
The Dubai World Cup is the world's richest race

Unlike National Hunt, Flat racing is a global business.

England remains the centre of the sport but improvements in equine travel facilities and lucrative prize money means more owners and trainers are opting to send their horses to international events.

Europe
The major European Flat racing countries are England, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy.

The Pattern, which is like a fixture list, is structured with all of these countries in mind, which means that there is no clash of top races.

All five countries have their own Classics.

The US
The Breeders' Cup meeting has become the finale to the Flat season and growing numbers of European challengers are trying their luck there each autumn.

Aside from that meeting, European horses do not tend to travel much to the United States, where nearly all the racing is held on a dirt surface.

That, and the fact all tracks are oval and very similar, means there is less difference between courses. Unlike on turf, the going is irrelevant and race times hold much more importance when it comes to judging a horse's performance.

The US Triple Crown is the most sought-after prize for American horses. It comprises of three races (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes) which take place within six weeks of each other from the beginning of May.

Just 11 horses have won all three in the same season.

Rest of the world
Dubai has established itself as one of the major centres of the Flat racing world - the Dubai World Cup in March is the world's richest race.

The Godolphin operation is based in Newmarket over the summer and in Dubai over the winter.

Flat racing is also popular in the Far East, especially in Japan and Hong Kong.

Australia is another Flat hotspot. The Melbourne Cup, run on the first Tuesday in November, brings the country to a standstill.

In 1999, a World Series was set up to link the world's most prestigious races and form a thoroughbred world championship.

Although it has been slow to take off - and has been dominated by Godolphin, who were the driving force behind its inception - others are now beginning to appreciate the rich rewards and attempts to raise the sport's profile.




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