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Australian Horse Racing Race Types

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Australian race types are not unlike the rest of the racing world and while we have a limited jumps season throughout the year, most of our racing is done on a flat surface which is predominantly grass, or turf as it is most widely known. Australian racing caters for all types of thoroughbred racing with maidens for the non-winners, Group One racing for the elite, Mares races for the females, Aged races for 2, 3, 4yo and upward horses, and races with Special or Restricted conditions and many more.

Races in this country range from 800m to 3200m for flat racing, and anything up to 5000+ for Hurdles and Steeplechase races.

Below you will find more information on race types available for horse racing in Australia.

A flat race is where horses race on a flat surface with no planned obstacles in the way.

A hurdle race is an event where horses are required to jump over a series of hurdles which are maximum 1 metre high and no more than 150 metres from the starting line. A hurdle event is run over a distance of no less than 2800m with a minimum weight of 62kgs for premier hurdle events and 63kgs for non premier, while the minimum top weight is 68kgs.

Jumps season in Australia generally runs from March to August and predominantly in Victoria and South Australia.

A steeplechase event is a race where horses are required to jump over a series of obstacles called fences which are no more than 1.15 meters in height. A steeplechase is run over a distance of no less than 3200m with a minimum weight of 62kgs for premier hurdle events and 63kgs for non premier, while the minimum top weight is 68kgs.

A Maiden Race is one restricted to horses which at the time of starting have never won on the flat a race at a registered meeting or any advertised race in any country. The same applies to maidens for hurdles and steeplechase races.

On the provincial circuit in Australia there are six types of class races, and they range from Class 1 to Class 6. A Class 1 race is restricted to horses that have not won more than one race and the same goes for each of the other classes through to Class 6 which are restricted to horses that have not won more than six races.

If a horse has won 5 races then it is only eligible for for a Class 5 or Class 6, and if a horse has won 3 races then it can only race in a Class 3 or higher. Maidens who have yet to win a race are eligible for any class race.

Ratings Based Handicapping is where horses have a base points rating allocated to them based on past performances. The chief handicapper then assesses a horses most recent start and applies a handicapping penalty or reduction to the horse's base rating, dependant upon the performance of the horse in that particular race.

Winning gallopers may receive up to 2.5kgs added to their base rating while the rest of the field will have their base rating adjusted up or down based on their race performance and how far back they finished from the winner.

A horse can then enter an upcoming event based on their rating. A mare with a rating of 76 would be able to enter a 0-82 handicap event. Horses with a lower rating will usually be higher in weight for an upcoming race, and a horse with a higher rating will be lower in weight.

Metropolitan Ratings Based Races
2YO - No change to how it is currently structured

3yo Open Handicap (No change)
3yo 0 – 82 (or 3yo midweek - 1MW)
3yo 0 – 72 (3yo Class 1)

Open Handicap
0 – 95 (1MW – LY - Strong Midweek restricted race)
0 – 89 (1MW – LY - Class 6 (Equivalent of Midweek/Night/Sunday)
0 – 82 (Class 6 / NMW (Equivalent of Midweek Class 6 / Night / Sunday restricted race)

Mares Open Handicap
0 - 89 (Mares 1MW LY)
0 - 82 (Mares Class 6)

Provincial Ratings Based Races
Open Handicap
0 - 89 (Class 5 or 6 Provincial)
0 - 78 (Class 4 Provincial)
0 - 72 (Class 2 or 3 Provincial
0 - 68 (Class 1 or 2 Provincial)
0 - 62 (Weak Class 1 Provincial)
Ratings figures courtesy of Racing Victoria website.

A conditions race is an event where specific conditions must be met before an entry is allowed. Number of wins in the city or country, age, sex, prizemoney won, even horse colour can be a race that is classed as a Restricted or Special condition's race.

A race event for 2yo colts & geldings and fillies only. Many 2yo events are open to males and females such as the Blue Diamond Stakes at Caulfield, however some 2yo races may be for colts & geldings only or fillies only. Early in the racing season 2yo races can be over distances as short as 900m.

A race event for 3yo colts & geldings and fillies only. Many 3yo events are open to males and females such as the Victoria Derby at Flemington, however some 3yo races may be for colts & geldings only, or fillies only.

A blue ribbon classic stakes race for three year old colts & geldings and fillies and normally run over a distance of 2400m. The biggest Derby in Australia is the Victoria Derby held at Flemington each year during the spring racing carnival and it is raced over a distance of 2500m.

A blue ribbon classic stakes race for three year old fillies and normally run over a distance of 2400m. The biggest Oaks race in Australia is the Crown Oaks held at Flemington each year during the spring racing carnival and it is raced over a distance of 2500m

A race event for 4yo horses and mares only

A race event for female horses who are 4 years old and upwards

A race event where the racecourse handicapper assigns horses a weight based on earnings and past performance to create a theoretical level playing field. The Melbourne Cup is Australia's most famous handicap race.

An open race is one where there are no conditions on horses who enter the race.

A race event open to all horses and usually over a sprint distance 1200m or less

A race event where a minimum weight is assigned

A race event open to all horses with a minimum weight assigned.

A race event for invited horses only

A race of higher quality that attracts better horses and offers much more prizemoney than a normal race and is generally a black type race such as a Listed or Group race.

A handicap race with a maximum and minimum weight which is different in each state but usually around 60-61kg maximum and 52-53kg minimum. Attracts higher quality horses and is generally a black type Group or Listed race.

A high majority of two and three year old races are run under Set Weights and Penalties (SW+P) conditions where weights are known upon entry into the race. The sex or age of the horse determines the weight of the race. Colts and Geldings usually carry around 2 kilograms more than the fillies. Set weights races are also available for horses and mares.

A race where a horse will carry a set weight in accordance with the Weight for Age(WFA) Scale. This weight varies depending on the horse’s age, sex, race distance, and month of the year. These races are usually Group races for high quality gallopers and more often than not Group 1 or Group 2 races. The WS Cox Plate is Australia's most famous Weight For Age race.

Group and Listed Races are those considered by the Australian Racing Board to reflect the highest standard of racing for races run in Australia and are published in the schedule of races described as “Group and Listed Races” by the Australian Racing Board.Group 1 races are the highest class race in Australia followed by Group 2, Group 3 and Listed races. More info on group races can be found at our Australian group races page.

Benchmark programming and handicapping commenced in NSW on 1st October 2009 to replace the Ratings system in use at the time. A Benchmark figure applies to NSW Meetings only and a horse's Benchmark figure is updated after each race start.

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