While over in the States some young horses can make their debut at races run over four furlongs or even less, in Britain and Ireland the recognised minimum trip has always been five furlongs.
While six-furlong races are also classed as sprints, some trainers refer to their speediest types as real “minute horses”, those who will simply burst out of the traps and hit the track as hard and fast as they can over five furlongs.
Five-furlong sprints are rather difficult for punters. Even when there is a very good sprinter involved, such as Battaash for example, should they make a bad start or hit bad luck in running then naturally they will have little time to pull themselves together and the race could be over before they recover fully.
That doesn’t stop us loving the speed demons however, and these races are some of the top five-furlong races which feature British and Irish-trained horses each year:
Traditionally turf racing’s curtain-raiser, the Brocklesby is unique as it is a two-year-old race with all of the young participants having their racecourse debut. It is staged over Doncaster’s Lincoln Handicap weekend at the end of March.
King’s Stand Stakes
The King’s Stand is one of only two Group 1 races staged in England over the minimum distance. Run during Royal Ascot in June, it has been won by some of the very best sprinters of all time.
A Class 2 handicap, the Epsom Dash is run on Derby weekend and given the downhill nature of the track, is considered one of the fastest events of the entire racing year.
Queen Mary Stakes
A Group 2, the Queen Mary Stakes is for the two-year-old sprinters and is run in June at Royal Ascot.
The male equivalent of the Queen Mary, it takes a very quick youngster to win this Group 2 race and despite how early it is in the calendar, many Norfolk winner remain sprinters for the rest of their careers and don’t go up much in trip.
King George Stakes
This flying Group 2 race is often run in incredibly quick times on what can sometimes be a very fast track at Goodwood during their Glorious meeting in late July or early August.
The other Group 1 five-furlong race in England, this is essentially the fastest race of the year being run on York’s very flat, very fast track in August. In 2019, Dayjur’s 29-year track record of 56.16 seconds was beaten by the brilliant Battaash, who incredibly completed the race in just 55.90 seconds.
Actually run over 5½ furlongs, the Portland is an important Class 2 handicap race from a betting point of view and is staged at Doncaster over St Leger weekend in September.
Prix de l’Abbaye
Although very often staged on soft ground, the Abbaye as it is known is a very fast race and has been won by sprinting greats such as Dayjur, Lochsong and Battaash. The race is staged on Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe weekend at Longchamp in Paris.
Flying Five Stakes
This Group 1 event is Ireland’s only one over this distance, being staged in September at the Curragh.
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
While the Breeders’ Cup Sprint is run over six furlongs, the Turf Sprint is set up to suit the European runners more and so it is staged over the shorter trip and is worth millions of dollars. The Breeders’ Cup is staged over two days at the beginning of each November at a different North American track.