I Love Handicapping – Part One

Submitted by
on April 7, 2014

Handicapping is the bread and butter of racing, without it, there would be no racing of any interest whatsoever because the best horses would win all of the time. A handicap is a race for which horses are allotted weight, based on their ability on the racecourse, to try to equalize their chances of winning. There are many other factors that influence the outcome of any contest, i.e. race distance and going, the track, the tactics employed, the wellbeing of the horse and so on. It is the skill of the trainer to put the horse in the right race to maximise its chance once the Handicappers have produced their ratings from which the weights are calculated.

The Handicapper hopes to make the race exciting and competitive for the owners and racegoers, as well as set an interesting challenge for the punters to solve.

In order for me to make profit from horseracing I have to know about handicapping, and as I’m coming to the end of my term as a selector of horses and I’m in the near stages of retirement due Parkinson’s Disease, I feel I am now in a position to extend my knowledge to you and show you in more detail how the handicap system works for me, and I’m happy to give away my secrets that have been locked away for years. I feel that the people who join my service this season will get the best value that I’ve ever produced in the past 12 years of me doing this job… so I urge you not to miss out.

First of all, you have to consider that I do this single-handed so while I’m about to explain how the handicap system works, I have to adapt it to my way of thinking and remove a lot of the jargon, because in the real world I don’t have a team of 12 guys helping me to segregate all the horses into different categories, which is what goes on now. I will only deal in flat racing, and during the Flat Season I will only concentrate on the areas where the form is sold, so you will rarely see me betting serious at the start of the season or at the end of the season. Also I don’t believe anyone can make this game pay long term backing on the All Weather tracks. Some may disagree, but I’m not here to dispute others I’m here to show you how I operate, so already I’ve reduced my workload in comparison to the official handicapper by restricting the times I study form and bet. This is a tough job and very time consuming so I have to look for ways to make it as simple as possible.

As I said, I try to make the handicap philosophy as simple as possible because if you go down the handicap route with regard to winner finding, it is vital that you understand what handicapping is all about. If you don’t understand it, believe me, you will lose a packet. I will often refer to my thinking in my daily messages, but simply put, we can use the Usain Bolt theory in that nobody beats that guy, so in order to get him beaten or at least draw with him, you need to figure out how much weight you need to strap to his legs to slow him down to make the race more competitive, or better still, equal. With regard to horse racing, the theory is EXACTLY the same. You can see on the race card how much weight the horse has been given to carry. This includes the jockey and his saddle, and if that isn’t enough, the poor old horse has strips of lead put into the saddle until it adds up to the weight that the handicapper has specified. I often hear people say “Why have handicap races” but owners wouldn’t pay to enter races against the Usain Bolts of the racing world, because it would be pointless.

Each handicap race has a maximum and a minimum weight that can be allocated, and this will be stated in the race conditions, and for most owners, handicaps offer their best chance of winning a race and brings ownership down to the level of the man in the street. You may ask how a horse qualifies for a handicap rating, well in most cases a horse runs three times in non-handicap races before it is allowed to run in handicap races. These would be maiden races for horses that have never won a race and then the handicapper has enough evidence after three races to give the horse a rating.

I’m explaining this as guide as to the procedure for all the BHB handicappers who control their little segment, but it is NOT the way I operate. I am not interested in any horse from betting point of view unless less it has proved it can win. Any person who gives up their hard earned money to back a horse that has not yet won the top place in the Winner’s Enclosure deserves to lose. By operating in this manner I can cut my workload down by 66% because on average based on all the horses in training, only 33% have won a race. So my segment is by default, all runners who have won a race. That is very important. I deal in winners only because once a horse has proved it can win, it then has history and form, and given the same conditions it will win again, and again, so it is a question of waiting for those right conditions to put your money down.

Once the horse has been given a rating by the handicapper it is his way of expressing the form of the horse on a racecourse, with the higher rating being the better horse based on proven ability. It is quite surprising that the average rating on the flat is 60 which proves one thing, there is a lot of dross running on a daily basis, but once the weight is translated from the ratings, it is that weight that is carried by a horse in a race. For example, if horse A has a rating of 100 and horse B has a rating of 90, horse A will have to carry ten pounds more weight than horse B because that is the difference that the handicapper has decided to make for an equal race between them.

This is a bit of background info about the range of handicaps but I don’t normally get involved in some ranges because they don’t make betting sense and I’ll explain why in a moment.

Continued in Part Two

Article contributed by Mick Taylor

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