A Complete Guide to Handicapping in Horse Racing

Published on January 19, 2018

Handicapping is an important part of horse racing. It involves putting extra weight on a high-performing horse with the aim to level the field for all horses in the race. As you can imagine, betting on horse racing is affected a lot by this phenomenon. In this article, you will learn more about handicapping in horse racing, its impacts on betting, and how it is done.


Since handicapping has grown to become so important in horse racing, it would be almost impossible for anyone to make big in this industry without getting properly familiar with handicapping. This article includes everything you will need to know about horse race handicapping to get started in this field.



Handicapping in Horse Racing



Here are four of the most important things that you should know and understand about this field.


● The importance of handicapping system
● Rules and Penalties
● How does it work in Horse Racing
● Betting on a Horse Race with Handicaps



Importance of Handicapping in Horse Racing



Wondering why handicapping is used in horse racing? Here’s why


As I said before, handicapping is the process of assigning particular horses extra weight. The main reason why specific horses are made to carry different weights in a horse race is to level the field for all participants. The weights are usually given to stronger horses with the aim to make them slow in the race so that the weaker participants have a nearly equal opportunity to win the race. A better horse will carry more weight.


Here’s how it impacts betting on handicapped horse races. Rather than simply predicting which horse is the most powerful or has the best chances to win the race, a punter needs to be able to predict which horse can overcome the handicap given to it. This is a skill that can only be learnt through practice and experience. If you are able to successfully identify a horse that can perform well even with its handicap, you’ll have better odds to win the game.



How does handicapping work in Horse Racing?



A handicapper is a person who decides which horse should get how much weight depending on its abilities. The handicapper assesses a horse’s ability based on its past records, strength and some other factors and then assigns the right weight to give it a disadvantage. Weak horses are not usually given any weight since they are already slow in the race.


However, this is where things get interesting. Even after assigning proper weight to a certain horse, you can never be sure that it will perform worse than its usual running history or same as all other runners in the race. This is where betting has the opportunity. A punter decides which horse has the capacity to overcome its handicap and still perform well in the given race and then makes a bet on it.



Rules of the Handicapping System



Handicapping is done so that all horses in a race can get an equal chance to win the race, irrespective of their abilities. But it doesn’t actually give the exactly equal chance to all horses otherwise there will be no meaning of conducting the race.


In theory, if the handicapper is assigning the right weights according to the ratings of particular horses, the horses should all finish in the first place. However, that still doesn’t happen. Why?



The Rules



As per the official handicapping in horse racing rule, the handicapper needs to properly analyze the things like the running history of the horse and its rating before giving its an extra weight to carry in a race. Each horse is given a rating based on its performance in the past 3 runs. These ratings are revised after every 3 races. A handicapper, therefore, has to re-assess the horse’s ability after every week and assign the proper weight accordingly.



The Penalty



Over the period of a week, the handicapped horses learn to manage the extra weight and develop a winning sequence eventually. The handicapper assesses them after the week ends and gives these horses penalty in the form of additional weights of 3,5 or 7 pounds to carry in the coming races. This is again to level the field for all participants.


Betting on a Horse Race with Handicaps



In normal handicaps, the betting works almost the same as in standard horse racing. The only difference is that instead of betting on the favourite, a punter first has to figure out the horse that can still manage to win with its handicap and bet on the same.


However, it is not that easy to find out the horses with the potential to win a handicap race, since every horse, including the weak and the powerful ones, in the race have almost the same winning odds. So, how do you do that? Here’s a usual method, which is not legal.


A horse is run over a poor quality trip to get its handicap rating down. Then, the horse is entered into a normal handicap race so that it automatically has an unfair but better-winning edge. Since the next assessment will take place only after a week, the punter can take the chance to win several bets during the period.


This guide is all you need to be able to properly pinpoint your areas of interest in handicapping in horse racing and filter out the bets that can help you win more.

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