Handicap Races – A Guide To Flat Racing

Handicap Races

Handicap Races – Around 50 percent of all races are handicaps, it is, therefore, important to understand how handicap events work if you are a frequent bettor who tries to seek value, as they are often found in these type of races due to the nature of how competitive they are, or is perceived. Handicap races – means each horse that is due to compete are to carry a specific weight based on their rating in the class that they are due to contest.

As an example, let’s say hypothetically, a four-year-old colt (male horse) is rated 80 and is due to contest a race for horses rated between 0-80. This would automatically mean he would carry top weight as the highest rated horse is allocated that welter burden.

If he, however, was contesting a 0-90 race, he would carry ten pounds less in weight than the top weight if the top weight happens to be rated 90, ie; 90 being the top rated horse minus his rating of 80, hence ten pounds less of weight to carry in the race in question.

So it follows that as a horse of this rating (80) goes up in class the less weight he will have to carry against his opposition and vice versa as he drops in class.
Below is a list of the class classifications with the rating range in which horses are allowed to compete based on the rating they have been assigned by the handicapper going into the race.
Listed Handicaps (Class 1)

  • 96-110 for horses rated between this range
  • 86-100, 91-105, 96-110 three different types of rating bands (Class 2)
  • 76-90 and 81-95 two different types of rating bands (Class 3)
  • 66-80 and 71-80 two different types of rating bands (Class 4)
  • 56-70 and 61-75 two different types of rating bands (Class 5)
  • 46-60 and 51-65 two different type of rating bands (Class 6)
  • 0-45 Lowest class of all, containing horses of very limited ability (Class 7)

So from the above information, we can see how horses can either progress upwards in grade or conversely drop down in class depending on its rating.
The handicapper who has the responsibility of assigning a rating based on performance has the option to change a horses rating after each run in a handicap or not, depending on his assessment if a change in rating is merited in either direction.

A horse that continues to underperform may well see his rating drop which may allow him to contest an easier race whilst horses that tend to perform well will see their rating increase and allowing them to contest better events with better prize money than they have previously contested.

The more impressive the performance, sometimes using other horses final positions in the race as a guide, then the more likely you will see a more elevated rating as a consequence.
The handicapper is well skilled but that does not mean bettors have to agree with his assessment and if you are able to find mistakes in his calculations then this can sometimes be utilised in making your betting pay over the long term.

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