Hong Kong Racing Study Guide: The Horse Class System, Explained

The 2022-23 Hong Kong racing season begins early Sunday morning East Coast time. Racing is usually conducted on a Sunday morning at Sha Tin and on a Wednesday at Happy Valley.

The two courses are dramatically different, and each has many nuances. Happy Valley is a tight, seven-furlong turf course. 1,000-meter races are run around one sharp right-hand turn into a short stretch (about 330 yards). 1,200-meter races have a quick right-hand elbow before heading up the backstretch to the sharp right-hand turn. Two-turn races begin at 1,650 meters and occasionally 1,800 meters. Three-turn races are usually 2,200 meters.

Sha Tin has a wide, expansive turf course and an all-weather track on its inside which is sometimes referred to as the dirt track. The turf course has a 1,000 meter straight then around one turn, the common distances are 1,200 meters, 1,400 meters, 1,600 meters and 1,800 meters. Two-turn races are run at 2,000 meters and 2,400 meters. The turf course has a long homestretch of over 440 meters so the 1,200-meter sprints start relatively close to the turn.

The common all-weather distances are 1,200 meters, then 1,650 and 1,800 meters going around two turns. The 1,200-meter sprint races are unusually fast so don’t get too excited if you see a race go faster than 1:09 seconds.

The biggest thing to understand about handicapping Hong Kong racing no matter what the surface or distance is class. Over 95% of the races are handicaps and understanding them is the key to success.

Hong Kong racing is divided into five classes. All horses are rated by the track handicapper and are then divided into classes so that the races are competitive. Class 5 is for horses rated 0 to 40. These are the lowest rated horses on the grounds but against each other, they form very interesting races to bet.

Class 4 is for horses rated 40 to 60 and here is where the action is. Horses that are beginning their racing careers are rated 52 so you will see some terrific horses start their career against Class 2 competition. Last year, Romantic Warrior started out at 52 when he made his debut at Happy Valley and seven starts later, was rated at 122 courtesy of wins in the Hong Kong Derby and the Group 1 QEII Cup.

Class 3 is for horses rated 60 to 80 and here is where you get horses moving up through the ranks as they earn higher ratings or horses dropping down. It can be a volatile mix of horses going in either direction.

Class 2 is usually for horses rated 80 to 100 but sometimes the racing office has to extend the range to create fuller fields – 75-100 or 80 to 105.

Class 1 is for the top handicap horses but despite big purses, are not stakes races. They can be 90+, 85 to 110 or 90 to 115.

Once the horses are rated and grouped into five classes, each rating point equals one pound assigned by the handicapper. For instance, last year’s 805th race, which was race 8 on July 6 at Happy Valley, was a Class 3 going 1,200 meters. The highest-rated runner at 80 carried 135 pounds. The lowest-rated runner at 60 carried 115 pounds.

A 20-pound weight spread in a race is not unusual but the norm for handicap racing in Hong Kong. With full fields also the norm, post positions are important so a horse carrying a lot of weight that is poorly drawn is usually a bad bet. Remember, program numbers are assigned by weight carried and not post position. The “1” horse in a handicap is carrying high weight. If more than horse is assigned the same weight, the numbers for those horses are assigned by alphabetical order.

When a horse wins, they usually pick up at least five rating points. An especially impressive win could pick up even more. Horses that finish in the top four are likely to add rating points. Horses that lose are likely to deduct points.

A horse in poor form is going to be dropping weight and might get to the point that they are very competitive in the Class that they are running in. A horse that wins and crosses the threshold to the next Class level will have to run against better competition but at least will be at the bottom of that new Class level and will be lightly-weighted.

Horses in Hong Kong are in a constant state of motion and understanding the system of class levels and handicap weights is crucial to success.

The post Hong Kong Racing Study Guide: The Horse Class System, Explained appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

DYFD Winter - 300x90

Comments are closed.