History - International Classifications



An International Classification of the best three years old and four years old and upwards having run in 1977 in France, Great Britain and Ireland was published for the first time in December 1977.

The principle of the introduction of such a Classification had been agreed at the International Stewards' Meeting held in Dublin in July 1977.

Then the details were finalised at a meeting in Paris in November 1977 between the official handicappers of the countries concerned.

This classification has been designated :

to stimulate interest in high class racing, both nationally and internationally,
to provide an accurate and impartial basis for assesment and valuation of horses,
to give breeders more accurate criteria for selection than was available,
to provide means of estimating improvement or deterioration of thoroughbred performance in the leading European countries over a period of years.

The reactions of the Press were generally very good and the International Classifications were also very well received in the racing world and considered as a great improvement to determine the relative merits of the best European horses.

It was used also to show the relative quality of the breeding in the three countries concerned.


Presentation made at the 2001 Paris Conference by Mr Ciaran KENNELLY,
Senior Handicapper, Head of Handicapping, Race Planning and International
Handicapping Department of the Hong Kong Jockey Club

The critical developments to the International Classifications lead by the growing of international racing :

      1977 Inaugural International Classifications published containing horses from
      France, Great Britain and Ireland
      1985 Germany and Italy joined the Classification Committee.
      1995 North American horses included in the International Classifications
      1997 Horses trained in Japan*, U.A.E*., Hong Kong*, included in
      International Classifications
      1998 Australian* and New Zealand* trained horses appear in
      International Classifications

        * Only horses that ran in races open to International competition
        were eligible for inclusion.

The number of countries who send representatives to the World Ranking Supervisory Conference has increased from the five European countries in 1985 to 12, including North America, Japan, U.A.E., Hong Kong, Australia, South Africa and Singapore.
The number of horses appearing in the International Classifications has increase from 146 in 1977 to more than 650 in the recent years.
Originally the International Classifications were confined to horses rated 120 or more now it includes horses rated from 110 upwards.


Problems were encountered in the formation of the International Classifications (IC) back in 1977 and in subsequent years as the IC expanded to include new countries.

Firstly a similar Ratings scale for each country had to be implemented. That was not a problem with the three founding countries in 1977 but not every additional country that joined the International Classifications operated in a similar manner. North America had no Rating System in existence until they joined the World Ranking Supervisory Conference.

They however formed the North American Rating Committee (NARC) and developed an International Rating scale similar to Europe. Other countries such as Japan, U.A.E. and Hong Kong, also initiated an International Classification Rating Scale in their countries so that the World Ranking Supervisory Conference could asses all eligible horses for inclusion into the International Classification.

Likewise in the Asian Racing Federation region, Handicappers have adopted the International Classification Scale for assessing horses in their Group/Graded races. Work is progressing so that within a short space of time countries like Singapore, Australia and New Zealand will have a compatible International Rating system.

When North America joined the IC, two issues had to be resolved. Firstly, how to treat the form of horses that race on "Turf" and "Dirt"? The International Classifications treated the form on these surfaces independently, so horses were given either a Dirt Rating or a Turf Rating.

Secondly, an issue that is highly emotive, medication. The Handicappers based their Ratings purely on the results of the races so medication was not an issue for the World Ranking Supervisory Conference. The sales companies adopt a similar stance, as there is no reference to medication in the pedigree or bloodline analysis pages


    What are the practical uses for International Classification :

  • Denoting "Champions" both Internationally and Nationally in the various categories, e.g., distance, surface, age and sex.

    As International racing continues to expand it is vitally important that all major racing nations have a platform to demonstrate the quality of their horses.

  • Evaluation of Pattern Races.

    Many countries utilise the International Ratings to assess their Group/Graded Races. The International Cataloguing Standards Committee (ICSC) rely on the International Classifications as their main reference for assessing races with a view to their possible promotion from Part 2 to Part 1 of the ICS booklet.

  • Selection of horses for International Races.

    The International Classifications form the base from which horses are selected/invited to participate in major International events. Usually a Selection Panel of Handicappers/Racing Officials are asked by the organisers of major events such as, The Breeders Cup, Japan Cup, Hong Kong International Races, Dubai World Cup, Singapore International Cup and many other International Races to rank the nominations.

  • Breeding Industry

    The ratings provide breeders with a means of assessing quality to complement Black Type as currently used in sales catalogues.

  • Assessing the merit of horses from different regions.

    Globalisation of racing continues to increase and there is a necessity for both the racing officials and the general public to understand the relative merits of horses trained outside their region. For example, ratings can assist individual Turf Authority's to gauge the relative quality of imports. Also with more simulcast racing the customer needs information regarding the form and ability of the horses in these races no matter where they are running.

  • Assessing horses nominated for International Handicaps.

    The Melbourne Cup is the most high profile International Handicap where horses from two Hemispheres and horses from at least three continents contest this racing institution. To achieve a result where runners from Australia, New Zealand and Europe can be separated by within a length at the finish shows just how practical the International Classifications Ratings are and the co-operation of Handicapper's world-wide is vital in achieving these competitive results


The Future

Racing has become an International sport and has to compete with the likes of Formula One, Tennis, Golf, Soccer, Rugby and Athletics. There are other sports that could be mentioned but what they all have in common is that they are attracting not just a local audience but a huge international following.

The major sports have some mechanism as to demonstrate their "Champions" and so should Racing. There is a need for both National and International "Champions" to give racing a higher profile on a world-wide bases.

Racing has the mechanism already in place with the International Classifications. However, the IC should be a true reflection of the top horses throughout the world not just in one or two continents.

* * *

International Classifications Conference

The Conference was chaired from 1989 to 1995 by Capt. Michael BYRNE and from 1996 to 2001, by Mr Geoffrey GIBBS.


The 2002 World Ranking Supervisory Conference was held in Paris from 2 to 9 December to compile the 2002 International Classifications which have been published in the 2003 International Cataloguing Standards Book available at The Jockey Club Information Systems.

The 2002 Classifications were compiled by:
France Gerald SAUQUE
Germany Harald SIEMEN
Great Britain Nigel GRAY

Matthew TESTER

Ireland Gary O'GORMAN
Italy Marco RINALDI
Japan Isamu KOSA
Australia James BOWLER
Canada Chris EVANS
Hong Kong Ciaran KENNELLY
Singapore Mike WRANKLIN
United Arab Emirates Melvin DAY
The Conference being chaired by Dominique de WENDEN