Understanding Horse Racing Classes

Horse races in the UK fall under different classes. These classes are meant to be able to help us determine the quality of the race, and to a certain degree they do. Understanding which horses can run in certain class races can make a significant improvement to your betting, especially when I let you into a little secret, more on that later though!

First of all we want to go through the different types of classes in UK racing. There are 7 classes in total but some of these are sub-divided further.

The highest class is 1 and only the best horses should be racing in these. Class 1 races are broken down further. In jump racing they are broken into…

  • Grade 1 – These are the best championship races where the weight a horse carries is determined by age and sex, however there is no penalty given in weight to a horses previous wins.
  • Grade 2 – Like Grade 1 races, runners have there weight carried determined by age and sex but, they are also made to carry more for previous winning races.
  • Grade 3 – Open handicap races where the weight a horse carries is determined by the horse’s handicap rating.
  • Listed Races – Not as high quality as the graded races but still recognised as being high quality races due to the runners involved.

In flat racing, the Class 1 races are divided into pattern and listed races. Pattern races are the best in flat racing, and are further divided into groups.

  • Group 1 – Races of major international importance.
  • Group 2 – Major international races but of slightly less importance than Group 1 races.
  • Group 3 – Important domestic races.
  • Listed races, as in jumps racing, are of a high quality but slightly lesser so than the pattern races.

After the class 1 races we get classes 2 through to 7. Horses can enter these races based on their handicap rating.

  • Class 2 – Heritage Handicaps, Handicaps of rating 86-100, 91-105 and 96-110
  • Class 3 – Handicaps of 76-90, and 81-95
  • Class 4 – Handicaps of rating 66-80, and 71-85
  • Class 5 – Handicaps of rating 56-70, and 61-75
  • Class 6 – Handicaps of rating 46-60, and 51-65
  • Class 7 – Handicaps of rating 46-50

Now you know which horses can race under which conditions you need to know how a horse gets it’s handicap rating!

But we can look at that in another article because, I promised to tell you a secret. The realisation of this is what first started to make me profitable.

It is all very well saying that a Class 3 race, for example, can have horses in it with a rating of 76-90 but…

…do you think that a Class 3 race with horses that are all rated 76 is going to be similar to one were all runners are rated 90?

Of course not!

Obviously we will never get a race where every horse has the same rating. The purpose of this impossible example, was to demonstrate that the boundaries are fixed, however the horses running are not.

If you can monitor your own class levels then you can quickly see the true class of a race based on the runners in the race, and when a horse is in a class much lower/higher than it should be it will stand out like a sore thumb!

Not only will it stand out, but you will also be able to see if it is in this race because it has been building up to it or declining in performance. In other words, is it likely to put in a good run or not.

The most important thing to take away from this article, is that there are many different ways to measure class, and the official way is not necessarily the best.

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. Sorry, but there is no such body as The British Handicapping Association.

    All of the handicappers – 12 in total – are employed by the British Horseracing Authority.

  2. An observation I have made of fellow trainers in the betting line is many of those who have been around the longest use class and breeding as their first criteria toward selecting a winner.

  3. how can I find these ratings without having to join a site?

    I live in the United States, so I am not very knowledgable

    as to where I cand find this info.

    1. Hi Paul, you can find this information for free on any race cards, e.g. Racing Post, Sporting Life. The class is always listed in the race details.

  4. great very informative reading, it will am sure influence my next lucky 15 choice to a degree in the bookies.What am really wanting to know is how a person would go about finding out how you would enter a horse into one of these lower end races say a class five race ? do you have to be a very wealthy individual,or do you have to belong to a top racing yard,do you need a licence for this and so on.If there is anyone who can educate me how to get involved in the lower end of these racing fixtures please let me know.I live in the Merseyside area.I often wonder do some of these jockies show up with their own horse in a horsebox on the back of their car and race their own horse, is this allowed? is it that straight foreward. I would also like to know who organises these races in advance, is it public knowledge! is there a callender for these class 4 and 5 races and are they ran on down market courses like sunday league footy matches without stands and no showers at the end.Any info from any quatre would really be appreciated because i would like to know more.thanks Bob Carney

    1. Thanks Bob. You can’t just turn up with a horse but it isn’t that difficult to get into the lower end of racing with a horse. Be warned, it isn’t going to be particularly cheap though. You should start by sourcing a trainer, the best to choose are usually those relatively new but who are showing some promise. They will give you an idea of the costs of having a horse and also help you to choose which to buy.

  5. Hi Are Winning Favourite Strike Rates by ‘Race Class’ available, and – if so – from where? (I’ve seen your Post for ‘Odds-on Favourites Strike Rate’ by Race Class, but would like to know what degree of variation exists across a wider range of odds for Winning Favourites in each Race Class).

  6. Great Article. Would you be able to shed light on something please. When I read the racing post cards I see that you either have group 1, class 1 or grade 1. What is the difference between these please ? Also group 2, class 2, Grade 2 etc. Thanks.

    1. Both flat and jumps have classes, e.g. class 1, 2, 3 etc… within these there are various types of races. Grades are for jumps racing only and they’re the highest class of jumps racing. Groups are flat racing only and are the highest class of flat racing. I hope that clears it up for you 🙂

  7. Hi Michael, I have been a punter for over 50 years who started in betting shops. I have experienced many interesting occasions and a couple of months ago started to put them down on paper. This had to be in the form of a novel because apart from my betting shop career my other career was in foreign exchange and I’ve included many of these interesting experiences, some of which are not exactly kosher. Consequently, it had to be a novel. I have owned a number of horses in my life and a good friend and fellow broker owned Rhyme and Reason amongst others. I thought I knew everything about racing, especially how to lose but as some of the novel is, in fact, fiction I needed to do some research and came across your article. Following a horse in my novel winning in its first race, a maiden, what type of race should it run in next? I thought a horse had to have three races before it received a handicap.

    1. I’m probably not the best person to answer this as I general stick with numbers and how to bet them, Phil Boyle may be able to give you more of an inside track on it. However, I think they’d look at an Allowance race after the next best. I’ll message Phil and see if he will reply on here for you.

    2. I most certainly can! The answer depends on how successful you want your fictional horse to be Robert! You are correct in that handicap marks are usually earned after three races. If a horse wins its first two starts, then the handicapper will give the horse a rating and if he thinks that there is not enough evidence to assess a horse correctly, then he may insist on a 4th or even 5th run. You are correct that horses can only run in a maiden until they have won one. If a horse wins its maiden first time, then it has three options: 1 – the best horses will go straight into listed or grade races – these are class 1 races and each race will have entry conditions that may limit participation based on experience etc. 2 – it can step up into a “conditions” race – normally level weights with allowances and these are usually class 2 or 3 contests open to any horse that meets the race qualification criteria. 3 – assuming the horse is likely to be a handicapper in due course, then it can run in “novice” races – these are typically lower class levels and level weights (with penalties built into race conditions). On the flat are restricted to horses that have not won more than twice, hence they provide the stepping stone to handicaps. Over jumps, novice events are open for the full season that a horse has its first win in – if a horse does not win in the first season it can have a second season as a novice. Over jumps, flat race winners can still be novice hurdlers and hurdle winners can still be novice chasers, all three disciplines are treated seperately. Does that all make sense? If not, drop me a question via the contact page of my website and I will email you a reply!

  8. Hi, the little secret of the article is very interesting but examples of analysis of detected horses would have been of great help please.

      1. I just want to have an example of analysis, how you proceed from the secret of your article a class 3 is different from another.

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