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What is a Handicap?

When looking at a racecard, you’ll see that more than half of the races are usually handicaps, but you might not know what a handicap is. Well that’s what we’re here for.

A handicap is designed to make a race as exciting and competitive is possible and it sees the horse with the highest rating, or the ‘best’ horse, carry extra weight to those that aren’t seen to be as strong.

Every time that a horse is in action, they are analysed by a ‘Handicapper’, and then given a rating. This person will take everything into account, so they are looking at any weight being carried, distance, ground, the pace of the runners and so on. The Handicapper can also take his personal opinion into account.

The aim is to ensure each race is competitive as can be and if there is a horse that is better than the others, they have to take on some extra weight to make it a fair contest.

That way, the outside horses then do have a chance of winning and it makes for some cracking sport as not only can you see some big winners, but the races are often tight.

Trainers and owners are able to give their horses a chance of winning a race, even if they know they’re not the strongest in the field.

Ratings are given in imperial pounds and the higher you are, the better the Handicappers believe you are.

So, say you have a horse rated 120lb going up against a horse that is 110lb. If they just went head-to-head, it wouldn’t necessary be a fair contest, but if the ‘better’ horse is given 10lb extra to carry, we now have an evenly-matched contest on the cards.

Of course, sometimes, the best horse will win, no matter what the penalty will be and it is certainly worth checking out the weights before you bet. Also, the horse with the lowest weight, who is arguably the weakest in the race, could come out on top and he certainly has more of a chance with it being a handicap.

You do need to do your research when it comes to betting in a handicap. You might think a horse is cracking value for the win, but the weights have to be taken into account.