Horse Race Handicap

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There are two meanings to a horse race handicap. In racing a handicap is a race in which each horse is allocated a weight. The weight a horse carries reflects past form. The handicap system, in theory, gives each runner an equal chance of finishing first past the post. A horse race handicap is different to a stakes or grade race in which the weights are the same except for allowances for age and gender. Handicaps are more competitive because the best horse will not always prevail.

The other meaning of the horse race handicap is the subject of this article. In effect, it is a guide to how to read a racing program. Handicapping horse racing involves assessing the prospects for each runner and identifying potential winners of a race. We will look at how to handicap horses and provide some horse racing handicapping tips. A horse race handicap is an assessment of a number of factors that are taken into account to arrive at US horse racing tips.

horse race handicap

Horse Race Handicap Factors

The basis of this horse race handicap article is the following description:

“Thoroughbred handicapping (in the USA) is the art of predicting horses who have the greatest chance of winning a race, and profiting from these predictions at the horse races.” (Source: Wikipedia)

The first stage of the process involves looking at the key elements of a horse race and the runners and identifying horses who tick most of the boxes. The second stage is using the information to arrive at US horse racing tips. A handicap is a race in which each horse carries a weight that reflects the chances of winning. This horse race handicap is designed to create a list of picks for horse races in the United States. The following factors have to be considered:


The form of a horse is the past results and how each horse has performed against other runners in a race. A racing program provides the results from historical races and a handicapper compares the value of each effort.

Collateral form involves race results for more than one runner in a race A race card summaries a horse’s form and provides more in-depth analysis of its value. The biggest Flat race in the United States is the Kentucky Derby. Handicapping this race involves looking at how each horse has performed in trials and prep-races.


A horse’s ability has two elements: breeding and results on the track. The horse could be a result of the coupling of two outstanding racehorses and inherited abilities. However, this ability might not be reflected in races because a horse does not have the mentality to compete. Proven ability is expressed in form and how a horse competes against others’ horses in a race. A horse might show ability in the Kentucky Derby which is taken into account when handicapping the Preakness Stakes or Belmont Stakes, which are the other two US Triple Crown races.


The class of a horse is determined by form in previous races. In US horse racing there are handicaps, stakes races, and graded contests. A horse will find its level and be able to compete in a class of race. A good handicapper will struggle to be competitive in stakes or graded races. However, some horses improve and can graduate through the different classes of race. Horses that have won graded races have the potential to run in the Kentucky Derby at a higher level of class.

Race Conditions

The key race conditions are as follows: age, distance, type of track, grade, allowances, and weight. In the United States, most tracks are oval and left-handed but some are dirt and others are turf. Some tracks have a straight course for sprints which suits the running style of some horses. The race conditions are important in identifying US horse racing tips.


A horse’s connections are the owner and trainer. Owner’s syndicates are popular because they involve a number of individuals who share the cost of owning a horse. Trainers specialize in a certain type of race or age group. Statistics indicate a trainer’s results in each type of race. The jockey is the most important member of the team because the role is about riding the horse in a race.


A horse’s breeding is its lineage, beginning with the mother and father. The art of racehorse breeding is combining the strengths of the male and female to create a successful racehorse. The sire and the mare produce offspring who may or may not be successful on the track. A horse’s breeding is manifested in mental and physical attributes.

Other Factors

In a Flat race, horses run from stalls and there is a draw to determine the post-position for each horse. On some tracks, an inside draw is an advantage but in some cases running from an outside stall gives a horse an edge. The going on the track is another consideration. If it has been raining, the track can be soft or heavy but after a dry spell, the going is good or even firm. Races are run at a pace that depends on the running style of each horse. If the field contains front runners, the early pace will be fast. If most horses run off the pace, the race will start relatively slowly and develop into a sprint over the closing stages. Handicapping horse racing is about assessing all these factors.

Finding Horse Race Handicap Data

Information is the key to a horse race handicap. There are several factors that have to be considered when handicapping horse racing. Horse racing betting reflects the relative prospects for each horse in a race. Bettors examine the form and race conditions to decide the horse to back at the current odds.

There are a number of sources of racing information, both offline and online. Visitors to the track buy a race card which shows the nature of the track and the conditions for each race, Newspapers publish detailed form for each runner in a race. There are now many websites and online racing form guides that collate the information and give predictions for each race. Reliable information helps to create profitable Us horse racing tips. The process behind how to read a horse racing program involves discovering a good source of race data and information about the horses.

Handicapping Terms

Here are some of the most important terms related to a horse race handicap and handicapping horse races:

  • Track: The configuration of the track and the racing surface.
  • Distance: The length of the trip of a race.
  • Going: The underfoot conditions on the track.
  • Sex: A horse can be a colt or gelding or filly or mare.
  • Age: The age in years of a horse.
  • Form: The position a horse finished in previous races.
  • Colors: The owner’s silks the jockey wears.
  • Jockey: The rider of a horse.
  • Trainer: The person that prepares a horse for racing.
  • Owner: The owner of a horse.

Any horse race can create a great deal of information and space in a form newspaper or on a racing website is limited. Horse racing handicappers should be aware of the common abbreviations for the key terms. Abbreviations are universal in US horse racing and save time and space for individuals who are trying to identify horse racing handicapping tips.

US Racing Tipsters

There are professional and amateur tipsters in US horse racing. Amateurs handicap a horse race as a hobby and to identify the horse to back. Professional tipsters devote more time to handicapping horse races. They predict the outcome of races and sell this information to subscribers. The best tipsters are transparent about past performance.

Anybody considering paying for tips should examine proofing history over a decent amount of time for the tipster. The process of handicapping horse racing leads to a list of potential winners. The best tipsters understand the horse race handicap process and identify the runners with the best chance of winning a race.