Measuring The Class Of A Horse

The class of a horse is often discussed in previews and by presenters, but what exactly is it? This is something that is very difficult to measure. Is it the personality of the horse, the ability of the horse or it’s breeding?

I would say that it is a combination of all these things and then probably a bit of something else as well. What that something else is however I’m not sure I could quite put my finger on. It is the same thing that makes some athletes great and others just very good.

Of course, what we all want to know is how to measure it. And the truth to that question is that there is no single way to measure class. However, I can assure you that the official class levels are not very good at best.

The class of a race can only be established based on the bands made by the BHA to a certain level. These bands are quite broad by necessity and so a large variety of runners can be entered into these races. As punters, we need to determine what the true class is, as made up by the actual runners in the race. If we do this correctly then we can spot when horse is of significantly better class than the other runners.

There are two ways to do this. The first is by using a manual handicapping analysis. This is a technique that will require practice. Like form reading you are going to have to know how well a horse has performed against other runners and how well those runners have performed against others. It is a style of collateral form reading and the thought pattern follows something similar to this…

If horse A and C are in a race together. Horse A has raced against horse B multiple times and beaten it every time by 1 length or more. Then if horse C has raced against horse B multiple times and always been beaten by 1 length or more. Then is there any reason that horse C should be able to beat horse A today? Probably not, horse A looks to be of a better class.

Of course this is just the start. As you begin to watch races then you will start to see the horses which run excellently against some of the best horses in the country. When you see these same runners go up against others in lower grade races then you will be able to pick up on the fact that they are most likely of a much better class.

Without a doubt this process takes practice and experience but it is something that if you put the time in will start to happen naturally in your analysis of a race.

The other approach is to start trying to develop ratings that may be able to measure the class of a horse. This will also take time, but just in a different way. In my experience you are going to be very unlikely to find a single way of measuring class that is always going to work. What you will need to do is develop different types of ratings that measure class in different ways. Then you combine them together to create a class rating.

Some of the measurements you are going to need are speed, form, earnings, collateral form and ability. But these aren’t class ratings?

No they aren’t. They are measurements of different aspects of a horses performance. But now imagine if we took one of these factors for a horse and looked at the last 6 races it had been in and the ratings it had achieved in comparison to the other runners. In effect we are looking at a race rating for one of these factors. This allows us to see the level or class of a horse it has been racing against measured by this specific factor.

If we then do that for every horse in the race we can then see what kind of class each of the runners in a race has been racing against for this factor. Now imagine if we did this for all the factors for all the runners in the race. We now are building a picture of the class of the race based on a variety of factors that are important in measuring a horses performance.

That is the key to measuring class in a statistical approach. It is possible to start with just one factor, the one you consider to be most important. Once you have got one up and running then add in another, when that is included then add another etc…

The factors that you choose should be important to the race types that you have a preference for analysing. Let me know which factors you think are the most important by leaving a comment below.

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.


  1. For flat racing I use the sire, trainer, jockey, draw, and going. I have these calculated in different ways. 1) with a weighted power rating, dependant on the type of race ie a 2yo race would put more emphasis on the sire. 2) centre of distribution calculated using the standard deviation centered around the average, 3) a simple total adding up all the individual ratings. From that information I have to decide which set of figures to use for any particular race. And whether I am going to dutch any selections or lay the favourite. The drawback is that it does not select any single runner as the potential winner but outlines the group of horses the the winner will most probably come from. I need to add some speed ratings but have not found anything yet that would work with my existing set up.

    1. It sounds like you are already quite a way down the line with your ratings. A solid approach. You may not necessarily want to be looking for a single runner. After all is there often a single runner who only has a serious chance of winning the race?

      If you have a group the contenders then this is accurate, does the winner come from this group 70% or more often?

      If so then rather than looking for a single horse you should be looking for the best way to place your bets to make the most profit.

      1. Thanks for your positive reply if I use just one rating I get into the high 60% if I combine
        two ratings I can get into the mid 80% range. The trouble is the contender list then selects
        to many runners to be truly usefull. I need another filter to give it more focus and to reduce
        the contender list down to a reasonable amount of runners. Then I could do as you say and
        work out the most profitable way to bet the race.


        1. If you can get 4 contenders winning 70% or more then you can be very profitable. However you can make it work by looking at betting strategy with up to half the field.

  2. Can a horse handle the Going. Class of race and class of horse can both be negated by a change in ground conditions. Speed is one factor if ground is standard.
    While if it is not standard being able to run on the surface is a factor that can change the class of both race and horse so the question is when is it going to be worth trying to rate the class if weather keeps changing the conditions . A horse starts a history from day One of training so the trainer is the starting point speed and stanima are important so distance comes into the equation but all are subject to going regardless of class. The point is 6 horses are in a race and all at 103 rating one can love the surface and five not. Who wins a higher class or a going loving horse. All things being equal speed is class. Frankel said so many times on the flat but now the Jumps need more consideration.

    1. I don’t think that ground conditions change the class of a horse. The class of a horse is independent. If the ground conditions change against the horse to a large degree then we get a horse who has significantly more class than the other runners may not be able to compete competitively due to ground conditions, however this is still a better class horse. You would see this with other factors and ratings.

  3. Other factors to consider, in order of preference :-

    1. Current form

    2.Course and distance form for the horse

    3. Days since run

    4, Trainer form (allied with trainer/jockey combination).

    5 Finishing position in races versus expected position from the
    betting market.

    6.. Going considerations

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