Handicaps are not about weight....

Last Updated: 13.10.2020

Tuesday, 13th October 2020

Handicaps are not about weight….

It’s one of those weeks when the wind drops – producing a bit of a lull….

The flat season is running down. The jumps season is starting to tick over….

It’s an opportunity to reset – to step-back and review some basics before reengaging….

For example, it does no harm to remind ourselves that the handicap punter should always be thinking in terms of ratings rather than weight....

  • Handicaps are NOT about weight....

Sometimes people misunderstand how handicap racing works. They get confused about the realities of the subject....

So, I’m going to make a statement now that might surprise you but which will help us get the basics clearly nailed down – just so nobody is in any doubt....

With the exception of when races are set to be run on heavy ground, I don’t give a damn about the amount of weight any horse has to carry in a handicap....

Now, that might seem like quite a statement coming from an analyst and punter who specializes in the big handicap races....

After all, aren’t handicap races all about weight?

Isn’t the amount of weight carried by horses the very thing that equalizes their chances and creates a notional level playing field?

The old saying tells us that weight stops trains. Isn’t it the weight a horse has to carry that ultimately gets it beaten?

I’ll take those questions and answer them one at a time....

No.... No.... No....

Forget about weight. Handicap racing is all about official ratings....

A horse’s rating should always be your primary focus. The weight the horse carries is a mere side issue....

  • Look at it this way....

How many times have you heard some bloke on TV say this or something like it?

‘Against The Crowd is going to find life hard now he’s gone up in the weights.’

I must have heard that statement hundreds if not thousands of times. That’s no exaggeration. And it makes no more sense every time I hear it....

Why?

Think about  it. Just because a horse is improving and moving up the ladder doesn’t mean it carries more weight....

A horse rated 85 can win a 0-85 handicap off top weight (9-12)....

The handicapper might then revise that horse’s rating to say 92....

The horse no longer qualifies for 0-85 races. He won’t get into 0-90 races either....

His new rating means he must go up in class and run in 0-95 races or races for horses rated 0 to 100....

In a race for horses rated 0 to 100, a horse rated 92 is unlikely to be topweight....

If the top-rated horse is rated 100 and is down to carry 9-12, then a horse rated 92 will carry 8lbs less (9-04)....

In other words, the 92 rated horse has gone up in the ratings and is now carrying less weight as a result....

If he loses, it isn’t because he is carrying more weight. If he loses, it is because his revised rating is such that he cannot handle the hotter competition at the higher level he is racing at....

  • The rating is the key....

The official rating horses are running off should always be your primary consideration when analysing handicap races....

Don’t worry about what is carrying the top weight. Or the second top weight. Or the bottom weight. Just focus instead on the official rating of the individual participants....

Is today’s rating it at the top-end of the horse’s range?

Is it a career high?

Has he won off his current rating?

Has he won a handicap off his current rating?

Has he been competitive off this kind of rating?

What is his strike rate off this kind of rating – and off ratings a couple of pounds either side of it?

Seeking the answers to those questions (and questions like them) enables you to take a clear view of whether or not a horse is handicapped to win today; whether he needs to improve on what has gone before; or whether he is too high in the ratings and needs to lose and come down the scale before he can get competitive again....

Weight means very little. The official rating means everything....

Every horse can win a handicap off a low-enough rating regardless of weight carried....

And every horse will reach a point in the ratings off which he can’t get competitive or win a handicap. And that too is regardless of the weight he has to carry.... 

Weight doesn’t mean a damn thing – with the exception of races on desperate ground. The official rating means everything....

Forget the first. Focus ALWAYS on the latter....

It’s a small point. But one that is frequently missed by punters who bet in handicaps – and one worth taking onboard ahead of the new NH season....

  • The final word….

That’s all from me for today. I’ll be back tomorrow. Meanwhile….

Anything to report? Anything to say? Anything to share? Contact me at: nick.pullen@oxonpress.co.uk

Until next time. Stay tuned.

Nick Pullen

Against the Crowd