Grade 3 National Hunt Races Explained

Grade 3 races are the lower profile races of the Class 1 events. However, "lower profile" does not imply a lack of quality, excitement, or valuable purses. It merely is a toning down of the pomp so frequently experienced at the higher ranking meetings. They are conducted as traditional Handicap races, thus meaning that the horses' handicap rating determines the weight is has to carry.

The Grade 3s offer enough thrills to keep up with their more affluent counterparts. Stop by and see some domestic talent in jaw-dropping form. The following list of Grade 3 races is by no means thorough, so check the course website or local racing press for further details.

The annual Grade 3 Jump Races in the United Kingdom are:

Race Location Distance Age Group
November
Servo Trophy Handicap Chase Cheltenham 3m 3½f 4yo+
Paddy Power Gold Cup Cheltenham 2m 4½f 4yo+
Greatwood Handicap Hurdle Cheltenham 2m ½f 4yo+
November / December
Hennessy Gold Cup (Chase) Newbury 3m 2½f 4yo+
December
Boylesports.com Gold Cup (Chase) Cheltenham 2m 5f 4yo+
Rowland Meyrick Handicap Chase Wetherby 3m 1f 4yo+
Welsh National (Chase) Chepstow 3m 5½f 4yo+
January
Victorchandler.com Chase Cheltenham 2m 5f 5yo+
Classic Chase Warwick 3m 5f 5yo+
Betfair Trophy Chase Cheltenham 2m 5f 5yo+
January / February
Heroes Handicap Hurdle Sandown 2m 6f 4yo+
February
Totesport Trophy (Hurdle) Newbury 2m ½f 4yo+
Blue Square Gold Cup (Chase) Haydock 3m 4f 5yo+
Racing Post Chase Kempton 3m 5yo+
February / March
Totesport.com Gold Cup (Chase) Newbury 2m 4f 5yo+
March
Paddy Power Novices' Handicap Hurdle Sandown 2m 4f 4-7yo
William Hill Trophy (Chase) Cheltenham 3m ½f 5yo+
Coral Cup (Hurdle) Cheltenham 2m 5f 4yo+
Fred Winter Juvenile Novices' Hurdle Cheltenham 2m ½f 4yo
Freddie Williams Festival Plate Chase Cheltenham 2m 4½f 5yo+
Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle Cheltenham 2m 1f 5yo+
Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Chase Cheltenham 2m ½f 5yo+
April
Red Rum Handicap Chase Aintree 2m 5yo+
Grand National (Chase) Aintree 4m 4f 6yo+
Scottish Grand National Chase Ayr 4m 1f 5yo+
Bet 365 Gold Cup Chase Sandown 3m 5½f 5yo+
May
Swinton Handicap Hurdle Haydock 2m 4yo+

Grade 3 Betting Strategy

What we are essentially looking for here are the fast improvers. If we look at other sports for a minute then we can see the analogy quite well. Football is a good example of a team moving up through the grades. Imagine in England where we have the Premier League, Championship, and 1st Division at the higher end of the football pyramid! Well, horse racing is like this too, the Grade 1 races and Group 1 races in National Hunt and Flat Racing are the "Premier League" of horse racing.

So Grade 3 races in National Hunt can be compared to the 1st Division in football and here we can see the difference. There are many differences between football and horse racing in terms of the structure. Football teams in the Premier League, such as Arsenal, can reside in that league for decades. Horses on the other hand age and are forced to retire.

However, there are teams that get promoted from the 1st Division to the Championship every single season and some ultimately go on to be promoted to the Premier League. Huddersfield Town in the 2016-17 season was a classic example. A footballing equivalent of a horse moving from Grade 3 to Grade 1!

Whether that horse will succeed at Grade 1 is another matter. So this highlights a clear betting strategy when we back or look to back horses in a Grade 3 race. What we are essentially looking for are the next Grade 2 and Grade 1 horses but we need to see horses that are "showing something". This means that the horse is showing some sort of potential. The problem is how can we know ahead of time that a horse will start to do well?

The Key Signs

Selecting winners isn't an exact science. If it were, there would be people making millions from betting on horses and the betting firms would be out of business. Backing a promising horse early in its career is a bit like buying shares that are about to rise in value. We buy those shares and ride the wave for a while until all of the value has disappeared. This is what many professional traders do and betting on aspiring horses is no different.

Sometimes a horse may evolve over a period of time into a Grade 2 horse while others do it straight away. For example, if you were to see a horses' form in its first season as 006750, indicating that 5th was its best result, then you could be forgiven for just eliminating this horse from your selection.

Who is the Trainer?

Who the trainer is has a big influence on what the horse will do in the future. Remember that trainers are in the business to train horses. Their stables are only equipped to handle so many horses and there are waiting lists at the top stables. So when you see a trainer with a good history of say improving a horse in its second or third year then you have the makings of a good bet. Trainers are very adept at knowing their horse flesh and more importantly what the horse is capable of, only looking to train horses with potential. Don't be so quick to dismiss a horse at Grade 3 with poor form if the horse has yet to fully mature and comes from a class stable.

These horses can be where the 33/1 and 40/1 winners are found. If you don't fancy putting too much money on horses at these prices then we don't blame you and neither would we. However, this doesn’t alter the fact that you can dovetail your stake and you can read more in our beginners guide to horserace betting. If you normal bet is say £20 then why not bet £5? At least you can have a good return should the horse win without having that horrible feeling of "burning money" if you back it and it runs badly.