Why do race horses have different ratings and what do they mean?

Understanding horse racing ratings is a great way of improving your betting knowledge to help you make smarter picks on winners

Horse racing official ratings system explained

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Official Ratings (OR) are one of the numerous statistics added to a race card that can be bamboozling to newcomers in the world of horse racing.

But don’t worry, because Paddy Power is here to bring you everything you need to know about ratings, as part of our Demystifying Racing series of guides.

Here you’ll find all the information you need about ratings in horse racing, and why understanding the ratings system is important when betting!

What are ratings for in horse racing?

The BHA have a ratings system in place for Flat and National Hunt races, which evaluates a horse based on its past performances.

So, if a horse wins then its rating will rise, while a string of poor results will see it fall.

Individual races are set a rating, in order to bunch together horses of similar standard. Therefore, a race at Kempton with an 80-95 rating will only accept horses within that bracket.

However, handicappers also use the rating to set weight allowances for each individual horse. If the 95-rated horse at Kempton is handed the maximum weight of, say, 11st 5lbs, then a horse rated 90 will have their weight reduced by 5lbs — one pound deducted for every rating point.

Paddy Power race card OR and weight

The Paddy Power race card clearly shows the OR and weight (PP)

The official rating of each horse is shown in the Paddy Power race card as OR, while the weight is also clearly visible.

When will a horse earn a rating?

A horse earns its official rating when it has won a race or placed in the top six on three separate occasions. At this point the ratings are used to determine the handicaps of the horse for the rest of its running career.

The BHA reassess and changes the ratings of horses every week, so that handicappers can ensure they allocate weights fairly. 

Cheltenham fans check out the horse racing betting odds

Racegoers always keep a look out for the latest official ratings on each horse (GETTY)

Does a horse rating affect its odds?

Yes. The OR is designed specifically to help handicappers work out the weight a horse must carry during a race — and this can affect the horse racing betting odds.

Horses with roughly the same ratings will be placed together in a race, but those with a lower rating will earn a one-pound reduction to their weight for every rating point they lack.

Handicapping is used to ensure those horses with a lower rating can run with competitive horse racing odds and still feasibly win the race.

Is there a difference between Flat and National Hunt ratings?

Yes. Horses that run on Flat will earn a rating between 0 and 140. However, those that run at National Hunt meetings will be rated between 0 and 170.

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