Graded races are the key ones at any meeting, being the most prestigious in jump racing. Grade 1 races obviously sit at the top of that pile, with Grade 2 coming underneath them and Grade 3 offerings bringing up the rear. Yet you should take from that that Grade 3 races are somehow less worth watching or filled with prestige than Grade 1 and Grade 2 races.
In 2022 rules were changed for Grade 3 handicaps, these are now re-rated as Premier Handicaps but retain the same overall status. It was felt ‘Grade 3’ has become a bit muddled and a new clearer identity was required by splitting off the handicaps.
After all, the Grand National is a now a Premier Handicap race and it is one of most-watched horse races anywhere in the world. Billed as ‘The World’s Greatest Steeplechase‘, only the Cheltenham Gold Cup can rival it when it comes to British racing and that is a Grade 1 race.
Cheltenham Grade 3 Races Changed To Premier Handicaps
There are now no Grade 3 races at Cheltenham and all have been converted to Premier Handicaps. Head over to our Premier Handicaps page to see all of the previous Grade 3 handicaps at the Cheltenham Festival and other Cheltenham meetings.
Grade 3 Races Explained
All Graded races are those of the highest quality and the ones that are considered to offer international interest. The idea of offering races Grades was introduced in 1964 and the manner in which they are decided has changed a number of times since then. There were around 40 Grade 1 races, 70 Grade 2s and about 40 Grade 3s.
The differences between the Grades are actually only slight, with Grade 1 offerings tending to be Weight-For-Age races in which certain conditions determine how much weight is carried by the horses. Grade 2 races are the same but slightly lower quality, with the key difference being that a horse’s previous successful performances will dictate any extra weight carried.
When it comes to Grade 3 races, they were previosuly virtually all Open Handicaps before they were moved to the Premier Handicap category. That meant that any weight addition carried by the horses is dictated by the horse’s official rating. This level of handicapping means that the races can often be full of excitement, with fast improvers often doing better as the season goes on.
There are no hard and fast rules in Grade 3 races, so it’s not as if they would all be the same length or have the same number of jumps in them. In fact, there aren’t even any rules about the age of horses that can take part in Grade 3 races, which is part of what makes them such an interest set of events to talk about.
Big Grade 3 Races
All of the races that were previously Grade 3 races and are now Premier Handicaps are already covered on our dedicated page, so head over there to see the pick of the bunch.