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How Class Movements Work in Horse Racing

Learning how to bet online on horse racing, and ready to move beyond the concept of Form?  While Class gets less attention than Form, it is arguably equally important. 


Class in horse racing has two components:

  • The Class of the horse
  • The Class of the race


The Class of the horse refers to how competitive it is.  Generally speaking, higher Class horses run in higher Class races, and vice versa.  The Class of a given horse may rise and fall throughout its career.


These changes in Class will be the focus of this article; I recommend strongly that you go back and read What is Class in Horse Racing? if you haven’t yet and still are not all that familiar with the concept of Class.  In that piece, I detail the different types of horse races (claiming vs. non-claiming vs. optional-claiming) and how Classes are assigned to each.  I also talk about what types of horses that run in each type of race.  This groundwork is essential to an understanding of Class in racing.


Examples of Class Moves

New horses always start out running either maiden claiming or maiden special weight (non-claiming) races.  These are races specifically for horses that have never won a race.  Horses that show a lot of promise will run in maiden special weight races, which are a higher Class than maiden claiming races.  Horses that do not show a lot of promise begin with maiden claiming races.

At this point, a horse’s career begins.  Depending on what happens next, that horse may either remain at the same Class or rise.  In the future, they may continue in holding patterns, rise higher, or drop. 


Claiming horses are less competitive than their non-claiming counterparts, so may be said to be in a lower Class overall.  Within the claiming and non-claiming race brackets, horses may climb or fall depending on their performance.  A horse that runs in a maiden special weight race and fails will run in another one - that horse’s Class is unchanged.  But one that wins and then graduates to allowance races has risen in Class.  Meanwhile, a horse that runs in a stakes race and does poorly and drops to an allowance race has dropped in Class.

There can also be rises and falls within the same type of race.  A horse that ran in a £10,000 claiming race and then runs in a £20,000 claiming race has risen in Class.


Now Here Is Where Things Get Complicated …


Ideally speaking, any rise or fall in Class should send a clear sign about a horse’s capabilities.  And you would think that performance in one race would be clearly predictive of where a horse will be headed in its future. 

For example, say that a horse wins a £20,000 claiming race.  You would expect that horse to race at a similar claiming race next time, or maybe compete at a higher level, right?

In many cases, that is exactly what happens.  But sometimes the opposite happens.  The horse may actually drop to a lower Class. When this occurs, it is indicative that there are problems with the horse. 


Does that mean you should steer clear of that horse when you place your bets?  Interestingly enough, not necessarily.  If the horse continued racing at the same level or tried to move up when it was not ready, obviously it would not stand a chance.  But the very fact the horse has dropped in Class may mean it is going to be racing at a level where it is still competitive—despite having problems.


This comes back to the concept of Form.  An Off Form horse that drops in Class may actually still have a chance at winning.  An Off Form horse that is still trying to compete at the same Class may be running at the wrong Class. 


This is why I would argue that you cannot examine a horse’s Form without also looking at its Class at the same time.  There is no way for you to contextually gauge the meaning of a horse’s Form without also looking at the Class where the horse is competitive and the Class of the race.  If the two match up, you are probably in good shape wagering on that horse.  But if the horse is not competitive at the Class of the race, that is a problem.


Likewise, you cannot consider Class in isolation of Form.  Again, just because a horse is competing at a high Class, that does not mean it should be.  That comes back to whether the horse is In Form or not.


Now you have an understanding of both Form and Class.  But these are not the only important factors to consider when you are handicapping horse races.  You also need to account for Pace and Speed so ready my articles on these very topics What is Pace in Horse Racing and What is Speed in Horse Racing.


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