What is class in horse racing?

How to use Class in handicapping horse races
We've added 4 new factors to Betmix in the last couple of days: Last Race Class, Avg. Last 3 Race Classes, Days Since Last Race and Last Finish Position.Before we get into details on the Class factors, let's take a step back and think about what a Mix in Betmix actually is, and how you go about building one.

When trying to explain Betmix and how it works to new users I often use a cooking analogy. Its sometimes easier for people to understand the concept if they look at the factors as ingredients, and the Mix they create as a recipe.  Each factor that you use in your mix would be similar to the items that go into a recipe and the value that you assign to those factors would be the amount of the ingredient you use.  Some factors would be considered main ingredients, and others would be spices. If you are not using the right ingredients in the correct amounts, your recipe will not turn out too well. In addition your recipe may be greatly improved by adding a few spices. But, if you add too many different spices or pour in the whole bottle of hot sauce you could easily mess the whole thing up.That may be an over simplification of how Betmix actually works, but for most people its easier to grasp that concept than it is to understand normalized variable multiple regression equations. Right?

The ingredients you would use to bake a cake are going to be different than the ingredients you would use to make a pot of Burgoo.  Just like the factors you choose to handicap a 5F turf race are going to be different than the factors you would use to handicap the Kentucky Derby.

A great chef needs to have a wide range of ingredients and spices, and a great handicapper needs to consider as many factors as possible.  Both the Chef and the Handicapper have to use the right ingredients in the right amounts in different situations.


If you get a group of 5 handicappers together you are probably going to get 5 different definitions of what class really means.  Is it the purse value of the races the horse has been running in?  Is it the competition at the racetrack?  Is an allowance race at Saratoga always better than an allowance race at Parx? Some handicappers are convinced that Class is the key to beating the races, while others don't place much importance on it at all.We created a class rating for every race in our database.  In order to define the class of the race we looked at every horse in that race, how fast they had run recently and during their careers, what kind of races they had been running in recently, and how much money they have been earning.  The smallest component of our class rating was the purse value of the race. We wanted to know how "Classy" the race was based on the quality of the horses in the race, not just the venue or the purse value.  We found out some interesting things.  Looking at the recent Keeneland meet, most people would say that the $750,000 Blue Grass stakes (G1) was the "Classiest" race at the meet.  But looking at the overall quality of horses in each race and what they had actually accomplished in their careers it was the only the 6th "classiest" race at Keeneland this spring.

So how predictive are the Class factors?  Used individually they may not be as predictive as the Class handicappers would argue. Just because a horse came out of the toughest race last time out, it doesn't mean that he will run better today.  But, when you look at the Class Factors as a "Spice" and use them in combination with other "Main Ingredients" they can make your mix more predictive.  Last Race Class in combination with recency (Last Finish Position and Days Since Last Race) is a much more predictive mix than using any of those metrics as single factors.

As you begin to use the new factors in your mixes you will notice that they are more predictive in certain race types and at certain race tracks then they are in others.  The bottom line is that in most mixes (or recipes) Class is going to be a spice and not a main ingredient.  The Class factors will absolutely make your Mixes more accurate, but don't ruin the Burgoo!