When it comes to the class division in racing, the average punter usually has a lot of questions to ask.

What is the higher class of race - a OMW (no metropolitan win) or a Class 6? How many Maidens can an Australian racehorse win? What is a Quality Handicap? Men they run a Country Cup at Eagle Farm, as they did on August 13, what class of race does it equate to?

Out in the bush at, say Mt Isa, what are the classes of race you can win, in ascending order? How come some horses can win three races before they run in a Class 1? Why can a horse win three midweek Welters at Eagle Farm or Doomben and yet be eligible to start in a OMW (no metropolitan win race).

When 40 horses are nominated for a race and they only need 20 acceptors (say a field of 16 plus four emergencies), how does the handicapper work out which 20 miss a start? If a horse wins a Class 1 at Ipswich and the owner/ s and trainer decide to run it in a OMW in town on a Saturday, what is the weight differential between that Class 1 and OMW in the handicapper's eyes? Is a fillies and mares Class 6 lower or higher class than an Open Class 6 against all sexes?

Why do we have Plate races when there is no Plate presented to winning connections? These are just a few of the questions that most puzzle punters.

I asked Queensland Racing Chief Handicapper Lester Grimmett if he would help PPM readers by passing on his knowledge and answering some questions. Lester was most helpful and he is thanked for his valuable input.

In layman's terms, let's answer some of these questions. He explained the structure of races changed in December 1989, when the system of Maiden, Novice, Transition, Encourage, Trial and Open company races was replaced by the present format. I worked through a series of questions with Lester to answer some of the queries at the introduction of this article. So here are the answers.

  • A Saturday Class 6 is higher class than a OMW (no metropolitan win). A OMW, in fact, equates to a Class 5 which is considered by the handicapper to be 1.5kg under a Class 6.
  • Many races are required to be scaled if the normal topweight is, say, only 55.5kg In this case, in terms of a pre-existing agreement with owners and trainers, the relevant horses would be raised by 1.5kg accordingly to a top weight of 57kg. The race heading will then carry a notation "Scaled+ 1.5kg". Horses' future weights are determined on their base weight.
  • Just as the handicapper may have to scale weights upwards, he may also have to scale them downwards. If, for instance, a Quality Handicap is programmed and Consular is nominated he would normally get 63kg in a Flying Handicap as at today, Lester explained. However, because a Quality Handicap has a maximum top weight of 61kg (8kg over the limit of 53kg), the weights are "scaled down 2kg as a Quality Handicap protects the better horses" (weight wise), explains Lester.
  • A horse may start in a Saturday OMW even if it has won three Welters. How is this possible? The answer is provided that the winning midweek metropolitan prizemoney at Eagle Farm or Doomben for the Welter (or any other class of race) does not exceed $8,500 to the winner, the horse can win any number of midweek races and still race in "no metropolitan win" class on a Saturday, so the prizemoney dictates a "metropolitan win". Conversely, a horse winning a Sydney midweek race at Canterbury will not be eligible for a no metropolitan win race in Brisbane on a Saturday, as the Canterbury midweek race will be worth more than $8,500 to the winner.
  • A Class 1 race at Ipswich and a OMW (no metropolitan win, equating to a Class 5) Saturday race in Brisbane has a weight differential of 7.5kg. So, as Lester explains, "if a horse is weighted in a Class 1 at Ipswich carrying 5kg over the limit and gets nominated for a 0" he therefore should get 2 1/2kg under the limit in the OMW - but of course he can't, as he must carry the limit weight". How can a horse win three races before running in a Class 1?

    Out in country Queensland - let's say at Mt Isa - the classes go in the sequence of Maiden, Class A, Class B then Class 1. A horse is eligible to run in a Class A race as long as it hasn't earned more than $3,000 for winning a race/ races. For the purpose of the exercise a horse may have accumulated $10,000 in placed prizemoney in Maidens, but only earns $2,600 when winning its Maiden at Mt Isa. That horse is still eligible for a Class A race because of the $2,600 "winning" prizemoney factor.

    Similarly, it is also eligible for a Class B if it has not accumulated more than $6,000 in "winning" prizemoney after having won a Maiden and Class A / B. At say Mt Isa, the winning prizemoney at the non-TAB venue is $2,600, hence the scenario of a horse winning three races before it has to start in a Class 1 is quite common.
  • Any horse can win two Maidens in Australia. The historically proven one is where a horse runs 2nd in a Maiden and then wins a Maiden at a subsequent start. The winner of the original Maiden (that it ran 2nd to) returns a positive swab and is disqualified and as such this horse referred to now has won two Maidens. In any event every horse is entitled to win a Maiden flat race and a Maiden hurdle - hence all horses have the ability to win two Maidens.
  • A Country Cup (like the OMW Denise's Diamond won at Eagle Farm on August 13) is normally programmed as either a OMW win or a 1MW (one metropolitan win), according to Lester. He continued by saying, "that particular race was also restricted by a condition that the horse must have had at least five runs in the last 12 months outside the metropolitan area. Again, the scaling of these races can vary."
  • Various types of Special Condition events are programmed in Brisbane, such as:

    OMW= Class 5  
    1MW= Class 6  
    2MW= Class 6 -1.5kg
    3MW= Class 6 -3.0kg

    By adding an additional clause "in the last 12 months" to these events, this allows horses which have not won at a metropolitan Saturday or public holiday to compete in more races for which they are eligible.
  • The strength of these events vary and, consequently, the scale of weights. For example, the 2MW-LY at Doomben on Saturday August 27 was rated only 1.5kg inferior to a Metropolitan Open Hcp.
  • When 40 horses are nominated for a race and only 20 are required (say 16 runners plus four emergencies), the handicapper will allocate an order of ballot on all 40 horses. In general handicap flat races the ballot shall be done, in order, from the horse/ s with the lowest handicap - but in the order determined by the Handicapper. In Set Weight Plate events this is based on the average earnings per start basis of each runner; Maiden Plates have a different method. In other races, such as feature events, the Club may stipulate Special Balloting Conditions.
  • A first starter Maiden colt horse is handicapped at a set figure with a filly/mare allowed 1.5kg in Maiden handicap races. For the purpose of the ballot the horse and the filly/mare are considered equal. The unraced horse, therefore, would normally have preference in a ballot over a horse that has already finished unplaced in a Maiden race/ s.
  • A horse that wins a sales related bonus race, like a 2yo Magic Millions, is normally assessed as being equivalent to winning a top Group race.
  • An Open Class 6 is open to all sexes (colts, geldings, fillies and mares) and this is normally a stronger class of race than a fillies and mares Class 6. However, these can vary according to the strength of nominations and the time of the season.
  • A 3yo Class 6 event is really a continuation of a 2yo handicap. By using Class 6 in the description of this race in lieu of 3yo Handicap this allows horses to win more races in this grade, as the winner of one 3yo Hdcp then becomes a Class 5 horse and a second win would render the horse ineligible to compete in the Class system.
  • 3yo Open Handicaps are programmed usually later in the season. Again, the handicapping of 3yo events can vary throughout the season with the later events bordering on an Open Class 6. Asked why the winner of a "Plate" race didn't in fact receive a "Plate", Lester did not know the origins of the term. (So if some historian knows, please let us know.) Lester continued by saying that Plates are a combination of different classes of races and you could call them "Graduations", or whatever you like, for the purpose of a name.

**Phil Purser runs the popular Just Racing website at www.justracing.com.au. It contains feature articles, breeding news, plus a very useful guide to winning wet tracks' sires.

By Phil Purser