Major Changes to Harness Racing Group Racing Guidelines

20 December 2021

AUSTRALIAN harness racing’s Group racing system is set for a major overhaul.

In 2023, there will much be much tighter guidelines around race classifications to ensure only our best races and open races are given Group status.

The updated guidelines, which were approved by the Harness Racing Australia (HRA) Executive this month, will see the formation of the Group Racing Panel (GRP) to oversee the Group Racing Calendar and, as part of its role, determine the status of all races in Australia.

HRA Chief Executive, Andrew Kelly spoke to Adam Hamilton about the reset of the Group Racing Guidelines and the need for change ‘‘What it will certainly ensure is increased integrity and quality of the system when its black type and it’s in the sales catalogue, or that trophy is sitting on your mantlepiece, that you know you’ve beaten the best of the best to get there.’’

Kelly spoke about the formation of the review and the consultation that had taken place with this being the first changes to the Guidelines since 2013 ‘’What consistently came across our table (as part of the review) was the sheer volume of group races and looking at each of the levels in its totality. From that perspective, not all Group Ones had been seen or viewed as being equal.’’ ‘’The review was looking at how people were feeling about that, the impact that it might have on particularly the breeding sector, how trainers feel about it, so there was a wide range of people invited to be part of the review.’’

Victorian trainer/driver Matthew Craven, who was key a member of the HRA Group Racing Consultative Group spoke with Adam Hamilton about the reason for change ‘’Obviously everyone wants to strive for the Group One tag, but there were Group Ones that I had won as a trainer that I felt weren’t genuine Group One races and I don’t think that was a good thing going forward. From an outside perspective, you want to be seen as a Group One trainer, but did you win a proper Group One or did you just win a Group One? Hopefully in the future people will realise that when you’ve won a Group One it carries a lot of significance.’’

Craven spoke about the process of the review which started in July -  ‘’We want to bring the industry up as a whole, and looking at the group races and the classification, how many of the Group Ones, Twos or Threes were proper group ones and how many of the others that were either restricted by sales races or eligibility clauses. We had to really look closely at that and throughout the whole process we’ve come up with a good solution’’

From 1 January 2023, the minimum dollar thresholds for group races will be increased as follows:


  • The minimum prizemoney for Group 1 races to be $150,000 for Pacers (from $100,000) and $75,000 for Trotters (from $50,000);
  • The minimum prizemoney for Group 2 races to be $75,000 for Pacers (from $50,000) and $50,000 for Trotters (from $30,000);
  • The minimum prizemoney for Group 3 races to be $50,000 for Pacers (from $30,000) and $30,000 for Trotters (from $20,000).

In a major change to the current system, the reaching the minimum prizemoney level will not ensure automatic inclusion, with the GRP to determine the Group status of a race, based on: the strength of the race, eligibility criteria and the consideration of the group pyramid. The Group pyramid model which will ensure a cascading model that there are less Group 1’s than 2’s and 3’s for each gait and sex, nationally.

A major basis for the change is to have Group status available for predominantly open races only. Meaning races that with restricted eligibility will only allowed Listed status. Restricted races include:  yearling sale races, races restricted by rating, earnings and races that are heats and consolations.

Races with broad eligibility such as staked races, like state futurity series’ and Breeders Crowns, will continue to be Group eligible.

The changes to the Group Racing Guidelines take effect from 1 January 2023.

The full Group Racing Guidelines are found here


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