The world of horse racing can be a complicated one, given that the various race types all seem to have different meanings and ask various things of the competitors. Nowhere is that clearer than when it comes to Conditions races, which are best explained by saying that they involve different conditions being applied to the runners depending on certain factors.
Sometimes the conditions applied to a race will surround a horse’s gender, other times it will be their age. The important thing to note is that a Conditions race is different from a Handicap, despite the similarities between the two. The big difference is that a handicapper decides how much weight a horse carries in Handicap races, as opposed to there being set rules that apply to all runners.
Cheltenham Conditions Races
Given a conditions race is effectively any race that isn’t defined as a handicap, novice, maiden or selling race it means any list here would cover the majority of races at Cheltenham and 70% of the races at Cheltenham festival.
Therefore, to see lists of conditions races see our Meetings page and look for races not in the categories above.
What Are Conditions Races?
Conditions races are a type of race that stand out all on their own, despite the fact that they bear a similarity to other types of races. The best way to explain this is to look at the British Horseracing Authority’s description of a Conditions race. It is as follows:
A Conditions race is one which is none of the following; a Handicap Race or a Novice Race, a race restricted to Maiden Horses, or a race governed by Selling or Claiming provisions.
In other words, if a race is one specifically for novices, a maiden horse, a handicap race or one that has selling or claiming provisions attached to it then it cannot be a Conditions race.
The most important thing in that list is the Handicap race, given that there are major similarities between the two race types. In a Handicap race the handicapper will decide what weight a horse should carry based on a number of factors, with their ability being at the top of the list.
In a perfect world, a handicap race would see all participating horses cross the finish line at the same time because the handicapper has judged the weights perfectly. In a Conditions race things work slightly different.
How Conditions Races Work
The reason there’s such a sense of similarity between Handicap and Conditions races is that horses also carry weights in Conditions events. The difference, though, is that the weights carried by the horses are decided according to various conditions that are met, which is where the race gets its name from.
The sex of the horse will dictate what weight they’ll carry, for example, with female horses carrying less than male ones. How old the horse is will also matter, given that older runners will carry more weight than their younger counterparts. The idea behind this is that it allows older runners and younger ones to take part in the same races.
Races that see the weight dictated by the age of the horse go by the somewhat unimaginative name of Weight-For-Age events. The final thing that is taken into account is the horse’s overall ability, with horses that have won at certain levels of race given more weight to carry than those that haven’t been successful in the same way.
The main things that are considered in a Conditions race, therefore, are:
- Sex of horse
- Age of horse
- Ability of horse
Conditions Race Levels
In Europe, Conditions races take place at every level of horse racing. The majority of the most important races in the UK are technically Conditions races, seeing as they don’t fit into one of the categories outlined by the British Horseracing Authority and have certain conditions attached to them that must be met by the entrants.
The very best races, which are known as either Grade or Group races depending on whether you’re talking about flat racing or jump racing, can be Conditions races in Europe. The same is not true in Australia nor in North America. In both of those countries Graded and Group races can be handicaps.
The BHA outlines it by putting Weight-For-Age Conditions races in Class 2.
Grade 1 races are defined as being ones in which the weight carried by a horse is determined by their age and their sex, whereas Grade 2 races are those that see a horse’s weight decided according to their age, their sex and the previous races that they’ve won.
You can see, then, why plenty of big races can technically be put into the category of being Conditions events.
Examples Of Conditions Races
Here’s a look at some specific races that come under the bracket of being Conditions offerings:
Betway Bowl Steeple Chase
This is open to horses aged 5 and over. The weight for this race is 11 stone and 7 pounds, though fillies and mares are given a 7 pound allowance. It’s a Grade 1 National Hunt race that takes place at Aintree every year and is part of the Grand National Festival.
Another race that takes place at Aintree during Grand National week is the Liverpool Hurdle. It is run over 3 miles and 149 yards, boasting 13 hurdles during that distance. It is for horses aged 4 and over and has the following weight conditions applied:
- 4-year-olds: 10 stone 13 pounds
- 5-year-olds and over: 11 stone 7 pounds
- Fillies and mares are given a 7 pound allowance
The Stayers’ Hurdle is interesting insomuch as it is the Cheltenham Festival’s equivalent of the Liverpool Hurdle. Horses will often run in this event before trying their luck in the Aintree race. It is open to horses aged 4 and over and also has weight conditions in play:
- 4-year-olds: 11 stone 0 pounds
- 5-year-olds and over: 11 stone 10 pounds
- Fillies and mares are given a 7 pound allowance
Another thing about the Stayers’ Hurdle that makes it particularly relevant to what we’re discussing here is the fact that it actually began life as a Weight-For-Age Selling race. The horses were given different weights depending on their age and the winning horse was sold for £50.
Champion Stayers Hurdle
To complete the set, the Champion Stayers Hurdle takes place at Punchestown each year. It is a Grade 1 race that offers weights of 10 stone and 13 pounds to 4-year-olds and 11 stone and 10 pounds to horses aged 5 and over. As with the other races, fillies and mares get an allowance of 7 pounds. Run over 3 miles, it has 14 hurdles for the 4-year-old and over horses to jump.