Why are there different grades of horse race?

Horse races are graded in National Hunt meetings and it’s the reason we have massive events such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup and King George VI Chase

Horse racing Grade 1 race Cheltenham Gold Cup


If you’re new to horse racing betting then learning the grading system is a great way to work out which are the most important races of the National Hunt season.

And Paddy Power is here to help with our racing grading guide! Get to know the difference between Grade 1 and Grade 3, discover which races are considered the best in the business, and understand how this affects the racing odds.

What is a graded race?

A graded race is a type of National Hunt horse race that denotes its quality. There are six class bands in the National Hunt hierarchy, of which the top band is split into three grades: Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3.

These are the elite-level races run over jumps such as hurdles and fences, and feature the most iconic horses in UK and Irish racing. Grade 1 is considered the elite-level racing grade, but that doesn’t mean Grade 2 and Grade 3 races are anything to be sniffed at!

The National Hunt racing classifications also include Handicaps, National Hunt Flat Races (often called Bumpers) and lesser races like Selling and Claiming Stakes.

Paddy Power race card Grade race

You can spot the Grade of a race in the Paddy Power race card (PP)

Grade 1 races

The most famous Grade 1 race is the Cheltenham Gold Cup and thousands of horse racing fans pack the stands for this event each year.

Icons are made in the Gold Cup, with horses such as Golden Miller, Best Mate, L’Escargot and Arkle cementing their place in history over the Cheltenham fences.

Cheltenham Festival boasts a staggering 14 of the season’s 30 Grade 1 races, including the Champion Hurdle, Queen Mother Champion Chase and the Stayers’ Hurdle.

Other racecourses to stage Grade 1 races include Aintree (during the Grand National), Kempton in December and Sandown.

Weight is given to horses here for age and sex, with no deductions for previous victories.

Grade 2 races

These are a step down from Grade 1 races but are still thrilling to watch and bet on.

Grade 2 races are known as ‘weight-for-ages’ races as horses do carry weight depending on their age or previous victories, but the range is limited.

Famous Grade 2 races include November’s Ascot Hurdle, the Desert Orchid Chase at Kempton and the Scottish Champion Hurdle in Ayr.

Grade 3 races

The Grand National is the stand-out Grade 3 race that the average horse racing fan will be aware of. This is a special race with 40 horses running over fences — but that doesn’t mean other Grade 3 races aren’t worth betting on.

Grand National Grade 3 race

The Grand National is the most famous Grade 3 race in horse racing (GETTY)

Indeed, some of the most thrilling races of the year come in Grade 3 events. Races such as the Welsh National, Newbury’s Hennessy Gold Cup and the Paddy Power Gold Cup all provide high-stakes drama for punters.

Other National Hunt race types

Handicap, Listed Handicap and Conditions races are some of the other race types run at National Hunt events that are not part of the Grades.

Yet these are still fine races to follow, as you may end up betting on a horse that one day becomes a Grade 1 champion. 

So, be sure to check out the latest racing betting odds at Paddy Power every week of the NH season.

And, if you want to discover more then feel free to explore our Demystifying Racing series of guides today!



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