With over 16,000 horses in training, clearly all horses do not possess the same attributes and ability. We have two categories of racing – the flats and the jumps, and in order to create fair and competitive racing, the BHA installed the handicap ratings system.
They assess the ability of every single horse based on their performances at a racetrack. The handicap rating system gives a horse an official rating which determines how much weight they carry in a race.
For example, if one horse is rated 100, and the other is rated 95, the horse rated 5 points more than the other will carry an additional 5lbs in weight. The aim of a handicap race is to give every horse an equal chance of winning. To provide opportunities for a range of horses, a racing classifications system is also in place.
Starting with the FLAT, we have Group One, Two and Three races. These are the top-level events – for example the equivalent to the Premier League in Football.
Group One races are the highest class of race run in the UK, including the Classics such as the 1,000 Guineas, the 2,000 Guineas, the Derby, the Oaks and the St Leger.
All horses carry the same weight in these top-class races regardless of their official rating. This is to determine who really is the best horse in the race.
There are sometimes some small weight differences – for example the Prix de L’Arc de Triomphe in France, 3yo’s competing against older horses and fillies against colts are usually rewarded with a claim.
We also have Listed races, which are contested by horses just below Group class. These can be either handicap or non-handicap events. Usually, some horses who regularly run at group level, make their seasonal reappearance in a Listed event.