A Class Apart – How to Pick Winners According to Racing Class

In UK horse racing, there is a multitude of different Classes in Flat and National Hunt races. The goal is to allow viewers to determine the quality of each event and if you learn how to use your knowledge of Class, a sizeable profit can be your reward. There is a total of 7 Classes in UK races although you hardly ever see a Class 7 event.

There is a slight difference between Class 1 races in Flat and National Hunt. While Flat races at this level are divided into Group 1, 2, 3 and Listed, National Hunt events are Grade 1, 2, 3 and Listed. Group 1 and Grade 1 events are the cream of the crop and feature the world’s best horses.


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The rest of the Classes are divided according to a horse’s Official Rating (OR) which is provided by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). A horse can’t compete in a specific race Class if its OR is higher than the maximum limit for that Class.

The other reason we have OR is to ensure competitiveness in handicap races. One rating point counts as one pound of weight. So a horse with an OR of 74 will carry 6 pounds extra compared to a horse with an OR of 68 in a handicap race. The BHA reviews its ratings on a weekly basis and horses receive ranking points for good performances. This is why you’ll often see trainers sending a horse out 3-4 days after a win; they want to get another victory before the handicapper catches up with them.

For the record, here are the race classifications for Flat events:

  • Class 7: OR of 46-50.
  • Class 6: OR of 46-60 and 51-65.
  • Class 5: OR of 56-70 and 61-75.
  • Class 4: OR of 66-80 and 71-85.
  • Class 3: OR of 76-90 and 81-95.
  • Class 2: OR of 86-100, 91-105 and 96-110.
  • Class 1: Listed races are usually in the 96-110+ range, and the other races feature horses with extremely high OR. In world class events, horses carry the same weight though there may be allowances according to age or gender.

The Classes for National Hunt races are structured a little differently but again, the higher the class, the better the quality of entrants.

How Can I Make Money From Race Class?

‘Research’ is, and always will be, the word of the day! As with all my strategy guides, I encourage readers to be their own detective and use tools such as HorseRaceBase.com. This is where I get most of my stats (The Racing Post is another excellent place for statistics).

The first step is to look at the statistics from backing blindly clear favourites on ALL UK races since the start of 2015 divided into Class, and we’ll work from there. As always, ROI comes from Betfair Exchange betting. I am also not including Class 7 events as there are hardly any.

ClassBetsWin %ROI (BF)
1114734.87%-3.33%
2141628.67%-4.13%
3267432.35%-3.99%
4692737.72%-0.98%
5697236.13%-2.78%
6405932.27%-5.77%

Straight off the bat, we can see that blindly backing favourites in Class 4 events results in an ROI loss of less than 1% from almost 7,000 bets. Now that is an excellent starting point!

However, when you include joint and co-favourites and combine Class 4 and 5 races, you have an ROI loss of just 1.52% from 16,353 bets. Clearly, there is enormous potential to weed away irrelevant criteria so let’s begin. Remember, here are the baseline criteria:

  • Class 4 & 5 Races
  • 2015-2017
  • Favourites, Joint-Favourites, and Co-Favourites

The obvious next step is dividing things into race codes:

CodeBets Win %ROI (BF)
National Hunt677036.71%-0.43%
All-Weather337135.18%-3.14%
Flat621233.13%-1.82%

We can eliminate All-Weather races now and start finding ways to turn the ROI of National Hunt and Flat races into a positive.

Flat Races

With Flat races, I focused on races with 1-10 runners. The ROI improved to -0.44% from 4698 bets. Then I eliminated non-handicap races, and the ROI finally went positive: 1.86% from 3025 bets. I narrowed the focus yet again and looked at ‘sprint’ races from 5f – 7f. The ROI increased again, this time to 3.62% from 1260 bets.

Finally, I looked at horses with SP odds of between 2/1 and 4/1 (3.00 – 5.00 in decimals). The ROI shot up to 8.11% from 873 bets. By removing Class 4 races, the ROI was an exceptional 16.57% albeit from only 487 bets.

National Hunt Races

We’re already down to 0.43% from 6,770 bets in just 3 years, so there is real potential here. By focusing on Class 4 races only, we already have an ROI of +1.81% from 4,670 bets. When you look at Handicap Races between 2 and 3 miles, the ROI goes to 4.76% from 2,323 bets.

As I mentioned above, the OR in National Hunt races is different to Flat events as you’ll typically see horses with an OR of 95+ competing. After some careful research, I found that horses with an OR of between 100 and 108 provide you with a superb ROI of 11.37% from 761 bets. What’s more, you get an ROI of 7.76% at worst over the last 3 years. You even receive an ROI of 6.07% if you take SP prices.

The Final Word

I have shown that you can make a reasonable profit from focusing on the Class of the race. While it does take a lot of narrowing down, the results are well worth it. Separate yourself from the standard punter and get paid by the bookies for a change. Here is a reminder of what you need to focus on.

To get a potential ROI of over 16%, follow these criteria:

  • Flat races
  • 5-7 furlongs
  • 1-10 runners
  • Class 5 events
  • Handicap races
  • Favourites, Joint-Favourites, and Co-Favourites
  • SP odds of between 3.00 and 5.00

To get a potential ROI of over 11%, follow these criteria:

  • National Hunt races
  • 2-3 miles
  • Class 4
  • Handicap races
  • Favourites, Joint-favourites, and Co-favourites
  • OR of between 100 and 108