Horse racing in the UK and Ireland is often associated with rolling hills, luscious green grass and roaring grandstands. But over in America many horse races take place on shorter tracks where sprinting is king.
Some of the world’s most exhilarating flat races take place in the United States and one of the types of racecourse used – albeit less and less these days – is the bull ring.
In our latest Demystifying Racing guide, Paddy Power reveals what a bull ring in horse racing actually is, and how jockeys prepare to master the tight turns.
WHAT IS A BULL RING?
Unlike in the UK and Ireland where horses will often gallop miles away from the finishing post before turning back round to come into the home straight, the bull ring is an oval shaped racetrack shorter than a mile.
America has a fascination with oval racetracks, particularly in motorsports like Nascar. Meanwhile in horse racing, Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park and Santa Fe are iconic oval racetracks.
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A bull ring in horse racing is the same shape as these racetracks – but the difference is that bull rings are shorter. So much so that sprint races can be held without the need to spread the action too far from the grandstands.
Now, these are not to be confused with the bull rings of Spain, Portugal and Latin America that are used for bull fighting – although the closeness of the action is where the racetrack of this type gets its name. Turns are tight and races quick, which is how America tends to like them. Maryland’s Timonium racecourse is a good example of a short bull ring circuit.
HOW DO JOCKEYS COPE WITH A BULLRING?
In a traditional bullring course found in the USA, jockeys will make a number of alterations to aid their race – something racing betting fans should be aware of. For example, jockeys may alter their inside stirrup by a couple of notches to shift more weight onto the left, which should help the horse in the tight corners.
Timing the horse into the turn is also a major consideration as there is a danger the horse can either overshoot the turn or slow down too much. Securing a tight position on the rail of the bull ring track is also paramount to ensuring the horse doesn’t expend too much energy on wide turns – much like track athletes.
Horse racing betting on bull ring events isn’t exactly big and the majority of these meetings are situated within local events.
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