What is a Group race?

In European Flat racing, Group races, also known as Pattern races, are elite races, intended to be contested by elite horses. As such, horses compete off level weights, although weight-for-age and weight-for-sex allowances are granted to three-year-olds against older horses and fillies and mares against colts and geldings, respectively.

Group races are overseen by the European Pattern Committee, which classifies races, in order of

by importance, as Group One, Group Two and Group Three races. The European Pattern Committee regularly reviews the status of all Group races; if the three-year average of the official ratings of the first four finishers is above, or below, a certain threshold, the status of the race is upgraded, or downgraded, from one season to the next,

Group One races, of which 32 are run, annually, in Britain, included seasonal highlights, such as the 2,000 Guineas, Derby and St. Leger – which, collectively, constitute the so-called ‘Triple Crown’ – to name but three. Group Two and Group Three races are less prestigious than Group One races, but still include important world-class and domestic races, such as the Dante Stakes and the Greenham Stakes. To make these races more competitive, horses that have won at the same, or higher, level within a certain period of time incur weight penalties; a Group One or Group Two winner dropping down to Group Three level, for example, might incur a penalty of, say, 5lb, depending on the exact conditions of the race in question.