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Horse Racing Handicapping

Horse Racing Handicapping

In this guide, you will learn

-          How Handicapping works

-          Why have handicap races?

-          How the performance affects handicap ratings


Handicap is a race of horses allotted according to their weight and their ability on the racetrack in order to equalize the chances of winning. Other factors include the track, the tactics employed, the pace and speed of the horse, its form, class and postposition.

However, handicapping is a skill at which the trainer has to put the horse in the appropriate race so as to maximize its chances of winning as soon as the handicappers have rated the horse and weights calculated. Hence, handicappers make the race more exciting and all races will consist of horses that are of the same predetermined level.

How Handicapping Works

Most races in the UK are handicapped races. Various handicappers specialize in Flat racing and others in Jump racing. Therefore, each handicapper is given a group of horses to look after. One handicapper can be looking at the hurdle races while the other handicapper looks at the long distance hurdle races. Hence, all handicappers will get to see the same horse over and over again thereby comparing and contrasting the results.

By handicapping, this makes it even for all horses to compete in a race at which all horses will be at par. For example, suppose there is a good runner and we place it in a race with poor runners, it becomes clear that the good runner will win and out play all other horses at which the game does not bring thrilling excitement to viewers, as well as bookies. Hence, with handicapping, each horse to include its trainer and owner has the likelihood of winning in a race.

The weight of the horse shown on the race card is the total weight it carries including the jokey and his saddle. Thus, handicappers specify a certain weight for each horse and if the total weight does not match the specified weight then strips of lead are placed on the saddled until the weight is of match. Therefore, each handicap race has a minimum and maximum weight.

Why have handicap races?

Handicap races give an advantage to horse owners and trainers to have a better chance of winning in any given race. Thus, without handicapping, we would have the top horses winning always. There would be no point for others to own low rated horses, and there would be no point of competing in a race.

How the performance affects handicap ratings

For each run, the horse is given a figure for the merit of that performance by the handicapper. Thus, when a horse qualifies for handicap races, the handicap rating is of paramount importance.  For example, a horse that runs to 80 on its first three starts is usually given a rating of 80 while a horse that first runs to 80 then 50 and 30 will have several notes and its handicap rating will be decided upon by the handicapper at which he would have to look at various factors why the horse had such bad previous runs than the first.

Therefore, the rating of a horse can be increased or decreased depending on the horse’s performance and if it keeps performing badly it will be dropped from that level. Thus, the handicapper would have to look and analyze each horse in detail as well as checking if s/he had undervalued or overvalued the horse.


Horse racing handicapping is a way in which horses of the same level are grouped together to compete against each other and each horse has an equal chance of winning the race.

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