Australian Horse Racing Class Chart

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Australian Horse Racing Class Chart

Horse Racing Classes Explained

When you do a deep dive into the form of a horse, you’ll need to know everything about horse racing classes.

They’re not essential for beginner punters, but we’d suggest knowing a little bit about classes before placing your bets and when following any horse racing tips.

Knowing whether your horse is running in the correct grade or out of its grade is important. It factors significantly in bookmakers’ markets, so there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be a factor in your betting strategy when betting with the top betting sites in Australia and on their betting apps.

Classes differ depending on what state you’re betting in. However, we’ll use Victorian and New South Wales-based class systems for this article.

Before we detail the different types of classes, here’s why you need to know about them.

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Horse racing class chart

Class/BenchmarkDescription
Group 1The highest level of horse racing in Australia, these events attract the best horses, jockeys, and trainers.

Winning a Group 1 race is considered the pinnacle of achievement in horse racing.

These races often have the highest prize money and include events like the Melbourne Cup, Caulfield Cup, and Cox Plate.

Group 2This category is a step below Group 1, but still features high-quality racing. These races often serve as preparatory races for horses aiming for Group 1 events.

The prize money is typically lower than Group 1 races.

Examples include the P.B. Lawrence Stakes and Hill Stakes.

Group 3Group 3 races are a level below Group 2, yet they still attract top-tier horses, often serving as stepping stones to higher levels.

Prize money varies but is generally less than Group 1 and 2 events.

The Blue Sapphire Stakes is an example of a Group 3 race.

Listed RacesThese races are below the Group level but are still significant within the racing calendar, often acting as developmental races for horses aiming to compete at the Group level.

Prize money is less than Group races.

Examples include the Bendigo Cup and the Pinjarra Classic.

Benchmark RacesThese races group horses based on a specific performance rating or “benchmark.”

The benchmark system ensures horses of similar ability compete against each other, making for competitive and fair racing.

Prize money varies based on the specific benchmark and race.

Class Races (Class 1, 2, etc.)These races are organised by a horse’s prior success, often denoted by the number of races won (Class 1 for one win, Class 2 for two wins, and so on).

The class structure provides a pathway for less experienced horses to gradually advance in competition.

Prize money varies based on the race.

Maiden RacesThese races are for horses that have not yet won a race.

They are an entry-level class where young and inexperienced horses can gain racing experience.

The prize money is typically less than higher classes.

What’s the difference between class and benchmark races?

Class and benchmark races are two distinct methods used in Australian horse racing to categorise races and ensure fair competition among horses of similar abilities, but they operate on different principles and it is important for punters to understand what they are.

Class races

Class races, often identified as Class 1, Class 2, and so on, categorise horses based on the number of wins they have achieved.

For instance, a Class 1 race is generally for horses that have won one race, a Class 2 race is for horses with two wins, and so forth.

The class system is designed to provide a structured pathway for less experienced horses to gradually progress through the ranks, from maiden races through to the class races.

Benchmark races

Benchmark races utilise a more nuanced system. In a benchmark race, horses are grouped based on a specific performance rating or “benchmark”.

This benchmark, assigned by a handicapper, represents a horse’s ability based on their past performances, not just the number of wins. A horse could, for example, participate in a Benchmark 70 race if its assigned rating is 70 or below. This system aims to ensure horses of comparable abilities compete against each other, leading to more competitive and evenly-matched races.

While both class and benchmark races contribute to the fair grouping of horses, the benchmark system tends to offer a more comprehensive assessment of a horse’s overall performance rather than just its win record.

Why you should factor in racing classes when betting

What class your runner is racing in will have an impact on many things. For instance, if your runner is rated at Benchmark 64 grade and is running in a Benchmark 84 race, it’s running way out of its grade.

Therefore, it has a lower chance of winning. However, the handicapper will give your runner a lighter weight to counter the difference in class.

On the contrary, if your runner is a high-rated type and is dropping down in class, it will be given a big weight.

Factoring in classes is a huge aspect of gambling. Due to conditions of the race, a runner rising way up in grade might not be suited by the weights.

All the information on weights and grades can be found in the form guide of most Australian bookmakers and horse racing bettings sites.

Different types of horse racing classes

Punters should note: A Benchmark 84 class running on a Wednesday isn’t the same level as a Benchmark 84 class on Saturday.

Premier racing days are always rated above any race midweek, unless it’s during the Melbourne Spring Carnival, which races on a Tuesday (for the Melbourne Cup) and Thursday.

Maiden

A maiden class is for horses that have yet to win a race. They carry the lowest prize money of all the classes. There are subcategories of the maiden class, which includes special maidens. A special maiden is a runner that has won a race but is still eligible to race against a maiden field.

Benchmark 58

You won’t see any Benchmark 58 races on a Saturday. These are available for the country and provincial meetings for runners that have either broken maiden grades, or have been struggling to win at Benchmark 64.

Benchmark 64

The natural progression for a runner that has just won its maiden race. It’s the next step in the career path and although rated lowly, there have been some nice Benchmark 64 types in the past.

Benchmark 70

You’ll often see a Benchmark 70 on a Wednesday or at the start of a Saturday card during the winter or summer months. A Benchmark 70 runner is likely trying to progress through the grades.

Benchmark 78

A Benchmark 78 runner has a touch of class but hasn’t yet gone to the high grades. Some horses stay in this grade for a long time, but it’s a good race to win for any runner looking to scale the heights of group racing.

Benchmark 84

Decent money is on offer for Benchmark 84 horses. They are a common fixture on metropolitan race cards and often produce good horses. If your runner is racing consistently in this grade, you have found a good one.

Benchmark 90

The horses running in this grade have been around the traps a few times. They’re the horses that consistently battle it out for the win, and they have a touch of class. Often, group horses will have a run in this grade to get their season started. However, they will have to carry a big weight.

Benchmark 96

Not the most common race on the calendar, a Benchmark 96 race is often on offer for resuming stayers looking for something bigger later in the season. There aren’t too many of these races in New South Wales, but Victoria has them on occasion.

Open Class

Any Open Class runner has made their way through the grades and deserves to race for big money. They are quality horses and all the major racing tracks host numerous Open Class races every Saturday. A win in this class gives a horse a chance of running for bigger money at stakes level.

Group Races

There are three different levels of group races. Group 1, Group 2, and Group 3. Group 1 races are the pinnacle of racing in Australia and throughout the world. Group 2’s are next best and Group 3’s are a step above open class. There are different rules to get into these races, which includes age and ability. For instance, a two-year-old runner can run in a Group 1 set for only juveniles.

Weight-for-age

Technically not a class, but it’s still important for punters to know. A weight-for-age race means the younger the horse, the less weight they carry. Therefore, if you’re backing an inexperienced three-year-old in the Cox Plate, that horse will carry around 50kg. Some horses prefer racing under weight-for-age conditions, as opposed to open class.

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About Daryl Curnow

After graduating from the University of Auckland (BA - English), Daryl was thrown into the world of sports and horse racing journalism. Having worked as a racing journalist for two years, he decided to move into the online world of horse racing and sports writing. After years of honing his craft, Daryl became a professional punter in 2009 - with a focus on horse racing, NRL, AFL, NBA, Rugby, NFL, and US college sports. Daryl's tips have been featured on various websites around the world before joining the GoBet team. When he's not working, Daryl tries to avoid making bogeys on the golf course.