The grades of horse race allow greater competition within each race, and signifies the quality of the runners on show. They’re found at events like Cheltenham and the Grand National Festival.
And Paddy Power is here to help explain it all 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 are the different grades of horse 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!
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The National Hunt racing classifications also include Handicaps, National Hunt Flat Races (often called Bumpers) and lesser races like Selling and Claiming Stakes.
Grade 1 races
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.
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.
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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- What is an Allowance Race in horse racing?
- What is the difference between hurdles and fences in National Hunt racing?
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- What does a novice chase in horse racing mean?
- Why do race horses have different ratings and what do they mean?
- When does the National Hunt season start and when does it end?
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- Why are some horses given a tongue tie during races?
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- Why does Cheltenham racecourse have an Old Course and a New Course? What’s the differences between the two?
- What is the Cheltenham roar? What difference does it make in races?
- Why are there no jumps in the Cheltenham Festival Champion Bumper?
- How many fans usually attend the Cheltenham Festival? How big is the capacity?
- What is a juvenile in horse racing?