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What is Class in Horse Racing?

Learning how to bet on horse racing betting sites?  If so, you may already have read up What is Form in Horse Racing?. Form is usually touted as the single most important factor in betting on horse races, but it does not stand on its own, and Class is arguably just as essential.


What is Class?  Whereas Form refers to the physical condition of a horse, Class refers to how competitive that horse is.  It is based on the horse’s racing history and takes the form of a particular level at which the horse is considered capable of winning.  As you might expect, Class is something which is not set in stone.  A horse may move up or down in Class many times throughout its racing career.


The concept of Class gets quite complex because races are also assigned Classes.  You can check the Class for a given race by taking a look at the Conditions.  For the actual Class of the horse, you have to check the Body of the Past Performances.


A number of factors go into determining the Class of a race.  These include the distance of the track, the surface type, the type of race, any restrictions, the purse, and the claiming price. 

The question you always need to ask yourself when you are checking out Class is this:

“Is this horse racing at the right competitive level?”


When evaluating Class, there are also a few terms that you need to be familiar with:

  • Claiming vs. non-claiming horses
  • Claiming vs. non-claiming vs. optional claiming races


Horses that run in claiming races are all up for sale.  Claiming horses can participate in claiming races or starter races.

Anyone who has a horse owner’s license has a chance to purchase (claim) a horse running in a claiming race.


Non-claiming horses only run in non-claiming races, and are not up for sale.  A non-claiming race has a higher Class than a claiming race.


There are Three Types of Claiming Races:

  • Maiden claiming:  These races are the lowest Class and the starting point for horses that do not show a lot of promise.  Horses with no wins race in maiden claiming races.  You can evaluate the relative Class of a given maiden claiming race by comparing the claiming price.  Those with a higher claiming price are higher in Class than their lower claiming price counterparts. 
  • Claiming:  These are races at a higher Class for horses that have won at least one race and thus have graduated from the maiden claiming category of races.  As with maiden claiming races, the relative Class of the race can be measured by the claiming price.  Class may also be impacted by restrictions; some claiming races are open only to horses who have won a certain number of times within a given time period.  The non-restricted races have a higher Class rating than the restricted races. 
  • Starter:  These are races which claiming horses can run in without being up for claiming. 


There are Three Types of Non-Claiming Races:

  • Maiden special weight:  For new horses that show a significant promise, maiden special weight races are the starting point.  These horses, just like their maiden claiming race counterparts, have never won a race.  But they begin at a higher (non-claiming) Class because they demonstrate more promise.  This is however the lowest Class in the non-claiming category of races.
  • Allowance:  This is the middle ground for non-claiming races.  Horses that have won a maiden special weight race may participate.  The Class for allowance races is higher than that of maiden special weight races.  Allowance races may be restricted or non-restricted; those with no restrictions are higher in Class.  
  • Stakes:  Stakes races are the highest Class races of all.  A grading system is used to denote the relative Class of these races.  Those which are “non-graded” are the lowest Class stakes races.  Those with the Grade 1 rating are the highest Class stakes races.


What is Optional Claiming?

As mentioned previously, there is also something known as an “optional claiming” race.  In this type of race, a horse can run for a claiming price, but it is not a requirement to run.  As you might guess, there are maiden optional claiming races for new horses.  In terms of Class, a maiden optional claiming race sits midway between a maiden claiming race and a maiden special weight (non-claiming) race.


There are also allowance optional claiming races.  Once again, the Class of this type of race is wedged between the Classes for Claiming and Allowance races.  Those with higher claiming prices and fewer restrictions are higher in Class than those with lower claiming prices and tighter restrictions. 


Now you know the basics of Class.  But we still haven’t had a chance to delve into movements between Classes.  Read on How Class Movements Work in Horse Racing to learn all about it!


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