"Weight rise handicappers running in the same class have an advantage"
Effect of Weight in Horse Racing
Do you believe that weight is an effective tool for controlling the performance of a horse? Do you think a horse going up 10lbs in the weights has less chance of winning today than last time out? Weight is one of the great racing conundrums. How can a few pounds extra on the back of a 1000lb thoroughbred influence its performance?
Weight is used to handicap a horses chance of winning. The more successful the horse, the more weight it carries and the less successful it should be in future races. At the other end of the scale poor horses are allowed to carry less weight and should thus be able to compete on a more level playing field.
The following tables should shed some light on how much of an effect weight has on a horse. First we will look at the performance of horses carrying more or less weight than their last race, next the performance of the handicapper, and finally the effect on extra weight influences such as overweight, penalties and allowances.
Changes In Weight
All Turf Runners
108,413 carried more weight, 11,083 won
113,231 carried less weight, 9,768 won
The above table shows the results of 221,644 runners on the turf since 1993. Horses carrying more weight than their last race won 10.22%. Horses carrying less weight than their last race won 8.63%. This means a horse carrying more weight than last time is 1.19 times more likely to win than one that is carrying less.
Obviously, this is looking at all turf races and does not take into account horses going up or down in class which will have a bearing on the allocated weight.
Turf Runners in Same Class
38,120 carried more weight, 3,925 won
40,950 carried less weight, 3,630 won
The figures are pretty much the same as in all races. Horses carrying more weight than in their last race, which was of the same class, won more than those carrying less.
Turf Runners Handicap Today, Handicap LTO
55,031 carried more weight, 5,474 won
57,085 carried less weight, 4,217 won
The above table examines handicap races where the last race was a handicap too. Although the strike rates are lower, the index is bigger indicating that a horse that is rising in the weights is progressing in the right direction.
Turf Runners Handicap today, Handicap LTO, Same Class
20,108 carried more weight, 2,092 won
22,380 carried less weight, 1,658 won
Weight rise handicappers running in the same class have an advantage.
Turf Runners in Stakes Races
36,323 carried more weight, 4,268 won
39,751 carried less weight, 4,665 won
Weight change in stakes races has no effect.
Turf Runners Handicap Today, Stakes LTO
10,155 carried more weight, 1,035 won
11,093 carried less weight, 1,412 won
The above table is the only one where it is an advantage to be carrying less weight.
Turf Runners Handicap Today, Handicap LTO, Same Going
6,046 carried more weight, 713 won
6,710 carried less weight, 511 won
In this table we are looking at horses running in handicaps that run on the same going as last time. As higher weighted horses win more on firm ground and less on soft ground we want to be sure that changes in going are not causing spurious results . The weight rise horses have a much bigger advantage when the going is the same.
The handicapper has a tough task. He has to allocate a rating for every horse that runs. His task is to assign a rating such that all the runners in a handicap will finish in one big dead heat. This has never happened, and probably never will.
The following tables examine his performance over the years and in different race conditions. Each table shows the average winning distance that the winner beat the second placed horse. If the handicapper were to be 100% accurate the figure should be 0 as we would expect to see a dead heat.
We will look at all handicap races run on good ground only. This is to ensure the figures are not influenced by soft or firm ground.
Over the past 5 years the average winning distance the winner beat the second horse has fallen steadily from 1.7 lengths to 1.4 lengths. This can mean one of two things. Either the quality of horses in this country are getting better, or the handicapper is becoming more accurate. We suspect the later. The handicapper is sure to be utilising the advances in technology which enable him to rate faster and more accurately. Like the world record for the 100m sprint, will the average winning distance ever reach zero?
This table shows the average winning distances for each class of race. As the class lowers the winning distance goes up. This could indicate that it is harder for the handicapper to rate lower quality horses, or that at the best races the competition is better. Some speed rating experts say it is indeed harder to win with their ratings in the higher class races as the difference in speed points is minimal, yet in races such as sellers there is a wide difference in ratings.
The margin for error is greater in longer distances. Ratings experts use a scale to adjust ratings for different distances, e.g. 5lbs=1 length upto a mile, 5lbs=1.5 lengths a mile to 12f etc., It could be flawed.
It is always thought that the handicapper underestimates the rating for 2yo's. The above table shows this is clearly not the case. It is 3yo's where the handicapper has the most trouble trying to get an accurate rating. This could be because many horses don't race at 2. The same applies with older horses. They may not have won for a couple of years and their rating may have plummeted too far.
The early part of the season could be affected by soft going which creates bigger winning margins. But there is no evidence of this at the end of the season when it is as likely to have softer going. What we think is happening here is the all weather effect. Horses that have run just before the start of the season hold an edge over horses that have not run since last season. The situation does not settle down until May. Many punters do not bet until then because they want to wait until the form settles down. The handicapper can't do this he has to rate every race.
Other Weight Influences
Why would a trainer use a jockey that would be overweight? The trainer may be disgruntled when the handicapper raises his horse too steeply but do you see him arguing with the jockey for being a pound or two overweight? Could it be that trainers like to run their horses overweight to disguise form? If the horse runs badly his rating should go down. He can then drop in class (and rise in absolute weight) and enjoy the extra pound or two gain from not being overweight.
The following table shows the average distance behind the winner of horses carrying overweight.
It is clear the more overweight a jockey is the bigger distance it will lose by.
It sure is an advantage for a trainer to turn out his recent winner quickly before the rating is reassessed. The bigger the penalty the closer the horse is to the winner.
Overall apprentices are a bad thing. In standard races the only allowances claimed are 3, 5 and 7lbs. Each of these riders lose a 1.2, 0.7, 1.3 lengths more respectively than a professional.
We are not saying you should avoid apprentices. You need to spot the best races for them, and you need to catch them when they are 'riding the wave'. This is where they have outclassed their allowance band and are close to dropping down a level e.g. from a 5lb to a 3lb claimer.
Note that 4, 6, 8, 10lbs are allowances in Apprentice only races. The apprentices that are claiming 8 and 10lbs (for having only won a few or no races) are good value for their claim.
Increasing the weight on a horse will not disadvantage it: it will not slow a horse down. Similarly decreasing a horses weight will not speed it up. Overall weight risers will mostly beat weight fallers.
The handicapper is becoming more accurate as the years go by. This is going to make it harder for punters to win in handicap races.
Take a close look at penalty carriers. Don't be put off by the weight rise as the bigger the penalty, the closer the horse will be to winners enclosure.
Overweight horses should be avoided but taken note of for future races.
Article created 10-Feb-01. Stats may have changed since.