Handicapping is a highly regarded system in the horse racing industry since it builds up a stimulative climate to increase each horse's winning chances. It also can influence odds, so punters should really pay attention.
What is horse race handicapping?
The main purpose of handicapping is to create a competitive structure enjoyable by both the spectators and the participants, altogether. It is one of those important systems that separates great stallions from novices.
Once a horse has participated in enough competitions to be taken into consideration, he will receive an official rating, which will be set by a handicapper. Sometimes, the official ranking is revised weekly, so the horse's performance level must be always satisfactory in order for him/her to remain in a class of handicap.
Horse race handicapping is decisive. It can influence the race quite a lot. But, of course, is more likely that horses with the best pedigree will win the race, even more so if they aren't packed up with heavy and unnecessary loads. It is one of those systems that somehow help to balance the odds.
Have you ever asked yourself how much does weight matter in a racing competition? We are not talking about a 50 kg luggage put around a horse's neck just in case an Everest expedition will take place. But these weight-related things are to be written down.
How does it work, then?
The art of predicting which horse has the best winning rates requires real talent and analytical thinking. There are over 100 factors to take into consideration when applying a handicapping system such as the preference for the race's track or maybe the recency-weighted strength of other participants in a certain race. The trainer's ability to make the horse and the jockey ready to win the race is important also.
A professional handicapper deals with very specific conditions that can have an impact over the results, such as:
- previous performances;
- the surface (sometimes).
He must make sure that each horse will carry a certain weight during the competition. Mainly, the idea is to be able to tell which one will overcome his/her handicap. The weights are allocated by the handicapper, and if needed, that avoirdupois can be supplemented using:
- the jockey's outfit;
- the equipment worn by the stallion (saddle, straps, pockets).
The horse' ability to carry a certain weight decreases as the distance of the tracks increases. The normal added weight is divided into top and bottom types. In theory, it's been said that putting heaviness on the top is the best option. A few pounds can hit a sour note during a race. The graphic below explains how is the kilo versus length relationship going on during a race.
Other elements worth considering in this “calculation” are:
- the horse's behavior, age, sex and maturity;
- the number of the competitive races scheduled;
- the previous race's frequency;
- the victories won till that moment.
For example, the WFA scale (Weight for Age) has been used for many years now to make the physical progress of the horse equal with the average thoroughbred type, as it matures. By the end of his/her third year, the stallion is already fully grown.
A good jockey will encounter no difficulties leading towards the finish line, but an amateur participant will stumble upon plenty of setbacks. Overcoming class deficiencies is a problematic task, since the experience has the final word. Therefore, this fact is quite a paramount ingredient in the handicapping classification.
Knowing a few handicapping tips and insights and trusting your favorite stallion will help you bet on the winner. For instance, a good horse that's used to have handicaps won't be forgiven if he'll lose the next race. Therefore, he will try to run faster and faster, and it is very likely for him to win. Be aware of this fact if you're planning to place a bet.
Also, have a look at this video to get a better idea of how handicapping works straight from an experienced handicapper's perspective: