How does Weight Affect Horse Racing ?

As the two horses pass the 200 metre marker, the topweight draws up alongside the bottom-weighted horse in the race, and they are set to do battle over the last 200 metres to decide the winner of the race. Will the weight assigned to the best-rated horse in the race (the top weight) tell in the last strides or will the lesser rated horse with the lower weight eventually succumb to the class of the better-rated horse.

This is a scenario that plays itself out on racecourses across the globe daily, and the winner will be determined by a myriad of supplementary factors, but top of mind for all punters when handicapping a race will be the weight to be carried by each horse in the race, and how that affects the running of a particular race.

What Effect Does Weight Have on Horse Racing? – The weight assigned to a horse in a race refers to the jockey’s weight plus their equipment (including the saddle). If the weight the horse is expected to carry exceeds the weight of the rider plus their equipment, the additional weight is compensated for by adding lead weights to the saddlecloth.

Weight is one of the most perplexing aspects of racing. It is used to predict a horse’s likelihood of winning. The more successful the horse, the more weight it bears and, as a result, the less successful it should be in future races. Poor horses, on the other hand, are permitted to carry less weight and, as a result, should be able to compete on a more even playing field.

Weight and the Handicapper

With each passing year, the handicapper becomes more accurate which in turn could make the punters’ job more difficult. Examine the penalty carriers closely and try not to be deterred by the weight increase as the greater the penalty, the closer the horse could be to the winners’ enclosure.

When a jockey declares an overweight on a horse caution should be advised, but they should be kept in mind for future races. Every race day, the influence of ‘weight’ on any horse is a major topic of discussion. When a horse is reported to be ‘well-weighted’ for a race, it signifies that the horse is deemed to be favorably handicapped in comparison to the weights assigned to its competitors.

If we take a wide view, we may conclude that a better-class horse is more readily able to carry heavy weights than a lower-quality galloper. However, as with everything else, this ability will be determined by the horse’s present racing condition, the distance of the race, the track’s condition (good, yielding, or heavy), and of course the all-important barrier position that the horse jumps from, especially in big fields. On a good or fast track, a horse may be able to carry 60 kg over 1200m, but over 1400m, it may only be able to carry 57 kg and win. If the track is wet, the horse’s weight-carrying capacity suffers even more.

Weight and the Horseracing Analyst

There will be times when an analyst watches the recent runs of a certain horse and the horse’s form appears to scream that the horse has a high percentage of winning the race being analysed. However, as you continue to analyse the form, red flags relating to his prior appearance begin to appear. The horse may have been allocated 58 kg in the current race, but historically you note that previously in the same grade of race the horse will be running in, that it has failed to carry that weight and less to victory.

Trainers attempt to balance this component of form and weight to a certain degree by requesting that an apprentice jockey ride the horse in a particular race. Apprentice jockeys are still in the learning phase of their jockeyship training and are therefore allowed to claim an allowance when riding horses in races.

In certain cases, the weight reduction can be countered by the apprentice jockey’s lack of experience and sometimes, competence. As a result, while considering the significance of an apprentice jockey’s claim, caution must be advised. However, there will always be certain apprentices that will be better than others, and these jockeys’ lack of experience will not necessarily negatively affect the horses’ chances of winning but will enhance it.

These select groups of apprentice jockeys will display the poise of a fully-fledged jockey, as well as the strength in the finish, and will have the ability to keep the horse balanced throughout the race and especially in a tight finish at the end of a race. It will be the trainers’ responsibility to find the apprentice jockeys to suit the running style of their horse where a weight reduction in a race via employing the apprentice to ride their horse will give it a better chance of winning. 

Weight Conditions and Penalties

  • According to the weight vs distance tables, a certain weight differential between two horses will account for a certain amount of lengths over varying distances. In certain circumstances, a horse will receive a weight penalty of three kilograms for each race they win, regardless of distance.
  • An older, more mature horse would occasionally have to surrender weight to a younger horse merely to make up for the maturity gap. Similarly, when fillies and colts compete in the same race, fillies generally receive weight from colts. Each race will have its own set of rules governing how the weights to be carried are determined.
  • It is feasible to create a horse rating system by reviewing race results and noting differences in distances at the finish and weights carried. These weight vs lengths behind values are then converted into kilograms. The difference in ratings between two horses reflects the amount of weight they should carry to compete equally if they run together.

Weight – The Integral Component

The weight a horse carries in a race will always be an integral component of a Form Analyst or amateur handicapper’s analysis of a race. As Technology has evolved, more information has become available to form studiers which if used correctly will make the analysis more accurate.

With the advent of Social Media, this information has now become available even more readily and in real-time, which allows the Punter to make adjustments in their handicapping formulas while race meetings are taking place. If used consistently, it will allow the Form Studier to pick winners more regularly, which is the end goal of all horse racing enthusiasts.


Hi, I'm James, a long time horse racing fan. I was introduced to racing by my granddad. He taught me a little about horses and I was hooked. I have been to most racecourses in the UK .

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