Group Races – An introduction To Flat Racing

Group Races

Group races are usually for horses that have already demonstrated a high level of ability on the racetrack. I say usually, as there are some graded events where horses of moderate ability can take part but it doesn’t happen too often.

We know there are various levels of ability from top to bottom and that is also the case for horses that are already shown on the racecourse to be group class. Below is a list of the type of group races and the minimum rating required to enter each division.

  • Group 1 – Minimum Rating 115
  • Group 2 – Minimum Rating 110
  • Group 3- Minimum Rating 105

For two-year-old group races, you would subtract 5 from the above as a minimum rating requirement to participate.

It is worth bearing mind that group races are also known as pattern races, and in some instances, a listed race which is one level below Group three may be considered a pattern race depending if it is listed in the EPC (European Pattern Committee) program book.

The European Pattern Committee make and govern the rules in regards to group races in Europe, those decisions are made on a collective basis by all members elected to be on the panel.

Changes could include to upgrade or downgrade a race in status, for example in 2016, saw six races improve their status by moving up one level then previously, whilst five pattern races and nine listed races were downgraded across Europe.

Some jurisdictions within a country may decide to amend the distance of a high profile and historical race in the future but by doing so there could be consequences, for example, the EPC could drop it’s status if permission is not requested or negotiated before those changes take place. This unfortunately happened in Italy where four of their pattern races were downgraded including two group one races.

The knock on effect is that overall prize money is reduced and the races will attract less quality which could affect an international presence from a numerical perspective from those that would normally take part.

The EPC can also introduce new races to the pattern program, through a request made by the country’s local authority, one example would be the Commonwealth Cup which was first inaugurated in 2015, as previously there was no group one races in the UK over six furlongs for three-year-olds only.

Horses who go on to win at the highest level (Group 1 races, sometimes at a lower level) may have the opportunity to become a stallion after his racing career, whilst fillies could in time become a more attractive proposition for future mating decisions should she win or be placed at group level, also known as “earning some black type” a terminology often used within the industry.

I would say nearly every racehorse owner initially gets into racing with the dream of their horse winning a group one race but the reality is only a small proportion of those dreams are ever realised with only 36 group one races in the UK a year. The competition is fierce with only those with the financial clout to buy the best on paper from a breeding perspective having a better opportunity to see their aspirations come to fruition and that is still no guarantee of success.

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