What is a handicap race?

A handicap is a race where each horse is allocated a weight, according to its ability, in an attempt to equalise every horse’s chance of winning. Handicaps are run on the flat and over jumps.

Handicapping is based on the idea that the weight a horse carries ultimately affects the speed at which it will gallop.

A better horse will carry a heavier weight because the handicapper thinks they have more ability to win races. Horses with less ability will carry less weight which will give them an advantage.

The handicapper’s goal in assigning handicap weights is to enable all the horses to finish in a straight line (in a dead heat). This has yet to happen!

For racegoers, the skill in picking the winner of a handicap race, therefore, lies in guessing which horse is better than the handicapper thinks they are.

Fast facts:

  • Famous handicaps include the Grand National and the Melbourne Cup in Australia.
  • Handicap weights are calculated on the official ratings published by the British Horse Racing Authority
  • Newmarket’s July Course runs a handicap solely for grey horses.

 

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