Grading and Competition

You might be well versed in most aspects of a raceday. Champagne, an extravagant outfit, a group of excellent friends to spend the day with. And hey, having a punt is also an essential part of indulging in a day at the races. But for rookies, understanding the different competitions and classes of racing can be intimidating. 

Here's our guide to help you decipher the language of racing.

Black Type

‘Group’ races are the highest class of horse racing in Australia, and are colloquially called a 'Stakes Race' or 'Black Type'. The latter term comes from the names of horses who win these races being bolded in sales catalogues. They are classified into four categories:

Listed (group 4): worth at least $80,000 prize money with 280+ races a year

Group 3: worth at least $115,000 prizemoney with 110+ races a year

Group 2: worth at least $175,000 prizemoney with 80+ races a year

Group 1: worth at least $350,000 prizemoney with 60+ races a year

The most famous Spring Racing Carnival feature races come under the Group 1 category – like Emirates Melbourne Cup, Ladbrokes Cox Plate and BMW Caulfield Cup, which collectively carry more than $10 million in prize money.


A thoroughbred racehorse that is yet to win a race is called a maiden horse. The majority of races run in Victoria consist of horses that are yet to win. In saying that, most races run at metropolitan racetracks like Flemington, Caulfield and The Valley are not maiden races. Maiden events at country racetracks are a great starting point for thoroughbreds, before, hopefully, they begin to graduate through the classes of racing.


After winning a race, a horse is assessed within 24 hours and given a numeric rating. The rating is based on, among other things, the strength of opposition, the winning margin, any previous wins, and total weight carried. In Victoria, the rating can be between 45 and 125.

This rating determines what weight a horse carries in a handicap race. The higher the rating, the more weight a horse will be asked to carry in a handicap race.

Handicap Race

Seen one horse race, seen them all, right? Wrong! There is a huge mix of horses competing in a race – four-year-old mares, three-year-old colts, seven-year-old geldings and on it goes. Therefore, many races are handicapped in an attempt to give each horse an equal chance of winning.

Winning horses will receive a boost to the rating and will likely carry a higher weight next start, while horses that place second and third are also likely to attract a handicap.

Both the BMW Caulfield Cup and the Emirates Melbourne Cup are handicap races.

Weight for Age Race

Weight for age races differ from handicap races in that all horses must carry a set weight that is in accordance with the Weight for Age Scale. The scale is determined by several factors: sex, age, distance of the race, and time of year.

Older, more seasoned horses are asked to carry more weight than their two and three-year-old rivals, while there is also a weight allowance for fillies and mares. Australia’s most famous weight for age race is the Ladbrokes Cox Plate.

So there you have it! You can apply your new knowledge when having a wager at our next fabulous Spring Racing Carnival event. Make sure you use the hashtag #SpringCarnival to join in on the fun!