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What does carrying a penalty mean?

When horses win a race, their trainer can often send them out again quickly, but they have to carry a penalty. So, what does carrying a penalty actually mean?

Well, when a horse does win, the handicapper will often raise their mark, making it tough to win races as the horse will have to carry more weight in his next race or take a step up in class.

If they win races really well though and are due a hefty hike in the ratings, trainers can send them out under a weight penalty, which in National Hunt racing is seven pounds and six pounds on the Flat.

So, sometimes you can get a horse that looks to be quite well treated in a handicap race. Say they win over hurdles and due to go up ten pounds and the trainer runs the horse again quickly, they can race off just a seven pound higher mark, so are three pounds well in. Often these horses will be a short price, but carrying extra weight isn’t easy and these runners are far from certainties.

Trainers will need to get a run into their horses quickly too as they only have a week or so before the new handicap mark comes into play. It’s often worth seeing if a horse has a number of entries within a few days as this can sometimes mean that the trainer fancies him to go well and has the option of running under a penalty.

To spot this on a race card, just look out for a x6 or x7 next to the horses’ weight and you’ll know they’re carrying a penalty. The figures can change sometimes and double penalties can also be carried, but these are usually the numbers to look out for.

Trainers who do well with these types of horses and are known for getting a few quick fire wins are the likes of Venetia Williams and Sir Mark Prescott, so keep an eye on those two especially.

Also, make sure the horse is well in at the weights, as sometimes they could only be due to go up four pounds for a win, but have to carry a six pound penalty and if that is the case, the likely short priced favourite could be easy to oppose.

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