Handicapping in Horse Racing: What Does That Mean?

By  //  December 19, 2021

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A trip to the ol’ race tracks has always proved to be a fun experience. Sometimes an expensive one but that’s because you’re probably not taking advantage of all the weapons at your disposal.

Of course, luck is always involved, but we like to think that luck is something that can be created, or at least aimed at – and no, we’re not talking about some horse in track number 6 called “Luck”. Please stay away from those.

As with any race, there’s something called “edge”, which is a bit of inside information that can give you small leverage among the average bettor.

Now, if you can combine that edge with some tools at your disposal, like handicapping software, you can make enough money to go on vacations – for a really long time! But what is handicapping? Let’s get into it!

What Does it Mean?

In Formula 1, Red Bull and Mercedes usually take the trophy. In long marathons, there are some African countries that have exquisite athletes.

In horse racing, as in every race, there are also horses, breeds, and countries that do it better. If you see an Arabian, a Quarter Horse or a Thoroughbred in the starting line, there’s a big chance they’ll come out in the top 3. That takes a bit of adrenaline and suspense to some races, where people are forced to bet in secondary events, like who takes the podium, or which horse ends 4th. 

In order to fight that, the industry presented a new category, around the 1860s, which had the goal of turning every race into a fair one, with a very unpredictable outcome. But really, what does it mean? Easy! The better the horse, the more weight he has to carry throughout the race.

That means the fastest horses will end up being heavier and slower, bringing the competition to a more close race. This gives an opportunity for horses of different categories to join together and race for the ultimate title.  


But who decides how much weight is placed on each horse? Well, the BHA (British Horse Authority) does. In their own words, “In essence, a handicap rating is a numeric representation of a horse’s form and, therefore, its perceived level of ability at any given time.“ Imagine a staircase of quality and form. For each step a horse is higher than others, it receives an extra pound (0.45 kilos).

Every week the ratings are updated and can be consulted online. Now, the owners can always refuse a rating or at least appeal against it, even though it doesn’t do anything, usually, as the ratings are the result of all the races the horse has done, as well as its current form in the last ones.

Lastly, if you can understand which horses take better advantage of this handicap, you can turn big odds into big money! Be sure to check out those handicap software we’ve mentioned previously and go win some races!