Class is one of the major factors affecting the chances of a horse in a given race.
It is hard to define exactly what it is, but Class is basically the quality of a horse and its ability to compete and win at given echelons of racing.
Horse racing is structured with different race categories with gradually more money to be won by owners and trainers the higher they go.
You can find a detailed overview of the Horse Racing class and categories in our other article.
But as a quick summary, horses can compete at different levels: from Claiming races, where all horses are for sale, to Grade One races like the Kentucky Derby.
Not all horses can compete at every level and their class determines at what level they can realistically win.
Being able to estimate the class of a racehorse will also help you win bets or maybe even uncover live longshots.
But as with anything in horse racing, class is not easy to define or to use. The complexity of the game is what makes it so great and so fun to play.
There is no way to tell the class of a horse exactly before he steps up or down a category and there is a fair bit of interpretation to do.
There are however a few signs that you can use before deciding whether or not to bet on a horse based on its class.
We recommend you read the full article about the class system to understand the advice below better, but to those already well aware of the horse racing levels we offer the following advice to place better bets:
Grade I stakes are won by Grade I horses
At the very highest level of racing it is extremely rare for a horse who has struggled somewhat at Grade II (or lower) to win the Grade I.
Try to pick a horse which has won a Grade I race in the past, unless all the horses of that kind seem to be out of form.
In the absence of an in-form Grade I horse, pick a Grade II winner who has won a few times decisively in that category. The strong Grade II wins might indicate that he is fit for the higher class
Class on the Grass
This old saying has a lot of validity: Turf racing is a different game than dirt racing and you cannot trust the finishing time or speed figures so much. You need to rely a lot more on class to find winners
In these races, the winning is done in the stretch. The horse that win is often the one which finishes the strongest and for that it needs power and determination. Higher class horses have usually more power and determination, this is what allowed them to compete at higher class categories.
The horse coming down from a higher class (for instance a Grade II winner coming down to a Grade III) will have an advantage over the others, granted that it is in form.
When betting on turf, pay even more attention to the class of horses.
Use the confusing Allowance conditions to your advantage
The speed figures, pace handicapping and other fundamentals are terribly important but if you can find a horse who has a good shot based on those AND the horse is well placed at the class level, you have found yourself a very good bet.
Most bettors don’t pay attention to the conditions of the race and they might bet blindly on a horse who has good figures or a good winning record without noticing that it is unproven at the class level or that there are other horses that might have an edge in class.
Try to spot horses who fit the bill perfectly for today’s race, for instance having won exactly the maximum amount of money or races to compete in today’s race.
If the horse fits the bill and has pretty good speed figure and runs at a comfortable distance and footing, it has a great chance today. These are the best bets in horse racing.
Be wary for the price tag
Going down a class level is good. The horse is going to face lesser opposition and has a better chance of winning.
Going down multiple levels at once is a terrible sign though, especially if the horse was racing ok at the higher class levels.
If you see a decent allowance horse which stopped racing for a while and is now offered in a claiming race, that’s a pretty strong sign that something is amiss with him…
Try using the class movements to infer the intentions of trainers and why the class move makes sense or not.
If the class move does not make sense, something fishy is going on.
Maiden Special Weight to Maiden Claiming is a good move
Intelligent trainers place their horses where they can win.
If the horse goes to down to Maiden claiming to win its first race after trying the higher level, that’s a logical move and one of the powerful angles in racing.
It is a well-known angle though, so odds might be bad, don’t forget to pay attention to the price offered.
Use the Speed figure pars to get a hint of class
For young developing horses especially, it is hard to tell from their record whether they fit at today’s higher class level.
It is normal for a horse to progress gradually to the higher levels. Going up does not mean that it has not chance. No horse makes its first start at the Kentucky Derby…
Use the speed figures to estimate if it is possible that the young horse (4 years old or less) has progressed enough to fit the par speed figure of the race.
If the horse could realistically have progressed to a level of speed figure that makes it competitive at this class level, it might be a good bet today.
Don’t bet blindly on class
You could conclude after this article that class is all that matters in horse racing. You would be wrong.
Class is only one aspect to your handicapping and you need to keep analyzing the other key elements such as pace, speed figures, form etc.
Class tells you which of the horses fit in the race, but you need to use the other handicapping elements to determine which have good chances of winning today and keep looking at the odds to see on which it makes sense to bet…
We hope that this basic advice on horse racing class will help you cash in a few more bets and we encourage you to keep learning about race categories, starting with reading our article on the subject.
The more you know about the type of races that horses can compete in, the better you will become at estimating their class!