How are racecourses graded?
Each racecourse in Britain is officially graded 1, 2, 3 or 4, depending on the General Prize Find (GPF) grant it receives from the Horserace Betting Levy Board (HBLB). The HBLB is a statutory body, established by the Betting Levy Act 1961, which annually collects a percentage of bookmakers’ gross profit from horse racing as the so-called Horserace Betting Levy.
General Prize Fund (GPF) grants, which must be paid out as prize money, are calculated annually based on the Executive Contribution (EC), or ‘merit’ – that is, the amount of prize money contributed by the racecourse authority – and the amount of off-course betting turnover generated by fixtures in the last three years for which figures are available.
Essentially, the higher the GPF grant, the higher the grade of the racecourse. Newmarket, for example, which stages nine Group One races during the season, received just over £2 million in 2018 and is classified as Grade 1. By contrast, Carlisle, which stages just one Class 1 race – the Listed Eternal Stakes, worth just shy of £40,000 in total prize money – received just over £165,000 in 2018 and is classified as Grade 4. Note that the grade of a racecourse does not, necessarily, reflect the standard of the facilities available for owners, trainers, jockeys or the racing public, but it is not unreasonable to expect a gulf between the best and the worst, consummate with the grade.