Australian Group One Race Definition

Prior to the 1979-1980 Racing Season, major Australian races were referred to as “Principal Races”.

Under the Group Race Classification system adopted at this time, Principal races were assigned Group 1, Group 2, Group 3 or Listed Race status based primarily on criteria relating to prestige, prizemoney and historical status.

Since then, various races have undergone review with some upgraded or downgraded. Numerous new races have also been introduced into the Group Race Classification system since 1979.

Form Focus Policy

For the purposes of recording accurate historical racing statistics, Form Focus needed to apply a logical and consistent approach in retrospective application of Group 1 status to Principal races conducted prior to the 1979-1980 season.

In the current Racing Season (2020-2021), there are a total of 74 Group One races.

By comparison, there were 54 races assigned Group 1 status when the Group Race Classification system was adopted at the commencement of season 1979-1980.

Form Focus considered it to be logical to allocate retrospective Group 1 status to these 54 Principal Races that were granted Group 1 status in the 1979-1980 Racing Season.

Races that were not granted Group 1 status in Season 1979-1980, but were subsequently upgraded to Group 1, therefore could not meet this criteria.

Obvious examples are the VRC Lightning Stakes (upgraded from G2 to G1 in 1987) and the MRC Orr Stakes (upgraded to G1 in 1993). In New South Wales, examples are the Flight Stakes (upgraded from G2 to G1 in 1985) and the Chipping Norton Stakes (upgraded to G1 in 1986).

When researching and collating the Group 1 winning records of horses, trainers and jockeys, (prior to 1979), Form Focus regards this approach as providing a consistent platform to operate from.

It must be emphasised however that this approach does result in modern-day records being numerically “inflated”, due to the substantial increase in the number of Group 1 races.

This is essentially no different to the AFL where games played per season have increased over time, or in Test Cricket where many more Test matches are now being played. This obviously results in current players having more opportunities to increase their games totals (and other related statistics).

Future Considerations

Form Focus considers the above explanations to be reasonable, however, when studying race-histories (and origins), it becomes somewhat unsatisfactory when applying the above criteria.

It slants all sorts of numbers heavily to the modern era and also fails to properly adjudicate what would have been a “Group 1” race (or equivalent) of its era.

Obvious examples include the various State-based St Legers and numerous feature WFA races (now defunct or discontinued).

Form Focus contends that a historical re-calibration of all Group, Principal and Feature races could be undertaken, applying retrospective Group status (as applicable) based upon an agreed criteria or formulae. Suggested parameters would include prizemoney, seasonal importance, winners honour roll, etc.

In this way, Australian racing could accurately evaluate statistics relating to feature events while also reaching agreed and defined race-origins.