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  Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 14:58 GMT 15:58 UK
Flat races explained
The trophy for the Sussex Stakes, Goodwood's blue riband event
The Group One Sussex Stakes is Goodwood's top race
The many different categories of Flat races can sometimes seem bewildering. BBC Sport Online offers a brief guide.


Group races

Group races, also known as Pattern races, are the highest-graded races of the Flat season.

The idea behind the Pattern, which was implemented in 1971, was to give a balanced structure to the season.

It aims to offer an even distribution of different types of races at all distances across the season and across Europe.

This system of grading races allows some measure of a horse's ability to be ascertained and helps to categorise horses for breeding purposes.

The Pattern grades the existing top races into three groups:

  Pattern races at Glorious Goodwood
Group One: Sussex Stakes, Nassau Stakes
Group Two: Richmond Stakes, Goodwood Cup
Group Three: Gordon Stakes, Vintage Stakes, King George 200th Anniversary Stakes, Molecomb Stakes, Lennox Stakes

  • Group One: Classics and other races of major international importance

  • Group Two: Races of an international importance but at a slightly lower level than Group One races.

  • Group Three: Mainly domestic races which serve as prepartory races for higher group events, such as Classic trials.


    Listed races

    Below Group standard, races are similarly graded with listed events being next in importance.

    Listed races are superior to average races but are below Group standard.


    Handicap races

    Horses which are not good enough to compete in Group and Listed races run in handicaps.

    In handicaps, each horse is allocated a weight on the basis of its past performances.

    The idea is to give every horse in the race an equal chance of winning - a "perfect" handicap would see a dead heat between all the horses in a race.

    A handicap is "formed" from ratings given by Jockey Club officials to every horse that runs.

    These ratings, which are updated on a weekly basis, are then converted into weights.

    The weight range varies from race to race, with the top-rated horse carrying the heaviest weight stipulated in the race conditions.

    All races also have a minimum weight, which must be carried even by horses who, according to their handicap rating should be carrying less.

    Such horses are said to be "out of the handicap".


    Limited handicap races

    These are races in which the weight range is kept narrow to encourage high-class horses to be entered as they will not have to concede as much weight to other runners.

    Another kind of handicap allows horses within a limited rating range, for example 0-70. This is to provide more winning opportunities for lower class horses.


    Maiden

    For horses who have never won a race before.


    Nursery

    A handicap race only for two-year-olds.



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    Links to more Glorious Goodwood 2002 stories are at the foot of the page.


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