Once the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National are out of the way the focus in racing turns to the Flat and the five races that matter most. The Classics are the pinnacle of Flat racing and only a small proportion of the racing population are good enough to compete. There is ante post betting on the Classics at least six months ahead of the races and there are many fluctuations in the odds. Trends can be used to male life easier when you are trying to beat the bookies betting on the Classics.
There are five Classics during the Flat season in Britain and the races and structure have been copied all over the world. The races that carry most kudos are confined to three-year-olds carrying the same weight so they are true championship races. A horse that wins a Classic then becomes a breeding commodity and the stud value escalates. That explains why so few Classic winners race at four and older. The maximum level of prize money is dwarfed by the potential earnings at stud.
The five British Classics are as follows:
2,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May over one mile for colts and fillies.
1,000 Guineas at Newmarket in May over one mile for fillies.
Derby at Epsom in June over one mile four furlongs for colts and fillies,
Oaks at Epsom in June over one mile four furlongs for fillies.
St Leger in September in Doncaster over one mile six furlongs for colts and fillies.
The importance of the Classics to the breeding industry is illustrated by two race conditions. Only colts can run in the Classics and fillies can run in all five. Geldings are excluded because these horses cannot reproduce and the line would stop. Fillies are the key element in a coupling so in theory could run in the Derby and 2,000 Guineas. The St Leger is open to both sexes. Pedigree is an important part of identifying potential Classic winners. However, the best guide is following the leading trainers and jockeys who have the best horses.
There are some recognised trials for the Classics which year after year produce leading contenders for the five most important Flat races of the season. If a horse wins or runs well in one the trials the odds on that horse winning a subsequent Classic fall. Generally Derby and Oaks contenders will have had a run earlier in the season but winners of the two Guineas often are making their seasonal debut. When betting on the Classics you should pay particular attention to these trials:
2,000 Guineas National Stakes, Racing Post Trophy, Dewhurst Stakes, Craven Stakes, Greenham Stakes
1,000 Guineas Cheveley Park Stakes, Lowther Stakes, Moyglare Stakes, Nell Gwyn Stakes, Fred Darling Stakes
Derby 2,000 Guineas, Chester Vase, Dante Stakes, Dee Stakes, Sandown Classic Trial
Oaks 1,000 Guineas, Cheshire Oaks, Musidora Stakes, Pretty Polly Stakes, Height Of Fashion Stakes
St Leger, Derby, Oaks, Gordon Stakes, Great Voltigeur, Beresford Stakes.
Previous Classics are good form guides because they involve the best horses of the generation competing in championship races. A horse that runs well in the two Guineas will advertise the potential to be competitive in the Derby and Oaks. These races can be good trials for the St Leger. The Triple Crown involves winning a Classic over one mile, one mile four furlongs and one mile six furlongs. A horse must be in prime condition from May to September to even run in three Classics and that’s why the Triple Crown is so rare.