Class is perhaps the most difficult of all handicapping factors to quantify. Some people think it is a combination of the level a horse raced at and also how well the horse fared in the race. There are some who feel that speed is the real measure of class and that horses dominate others by simply running faster and running the competition into the ground.
One method of determining class is to divide the total earnings by the number of races run. For instance, Horse A has had ten races and earned $100,000. Horse B has had 15 races and earned $185,000. Which horse has earned more per start? Simply divide $100,000/10 and $185,000/15. Horse A has earned an average of $10,000 in each race while Horse B has earned $12,333 per start. Clearly Horse B has been earning more per start so no matter how difficult the races it faced compared to Horse A’s races, it performed better.
This is a useful way to measure class when the horses are of about the same age and have had similar backgrounds and campaigns. It gets dicey, however, when the horses vary in age and the number of races is significantly different. Usually the purse value is higher for a young horse as it works its way through state bred races with softer fields and juicier purses. Once it hits open company and no longer races in races with purses that are subsidized its earning per start may begin to fade.
Even though said horse is racing at a higher level, the purses are lower and the competition is tougher. Perhaps a better way to gauge class by earnings is to look at each horse’s first ten races. Another possibility, if they’ve raced enough, is to only look at races where they’ve competed in open company. If the information is available you may try using their earnings in their last five races.
It appears that there are two cases where this method may be more accurate. The extremes of horses with many races and horses with very few races seem to fit the bill. Therefore we will probably find it most useful when handicapping older horses and very young horses. Like any other method of measuring class, however, this too will prove to be only an estimate. Horseplayers who handicap enough races sometimes develop a sense of class and can spot a young horse that is going to move up through its conditions and the ranks quite easily while others will slowly move through the non-winner races until they hit the open claiming ranks where they will have a mediocre career.