How Long Does It Take To Be Good At Math Understanding Weight and Lengths in Horse Racing Handicapping

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Understanding Weight and Lengths in Horse Racing Handicapping

Many people no longer pay attention to the weights assigned to horse races. Part of the reason is that weights don’t seem to make a difference, and also people don’t understand how much of a difference a few pounds can make on the back of a thousand pound animal.

Weight makes a difference for several reasons. First, when you handicap a race, do you read the race conditions and then look at each runner to see how they fit into those conditions? If not, you’re not really handicapped. Understanding how horses adapt to racing, and vice versa, is an important part of the handicapping process.

Race marshals put a lot of effort into writing the conditions and filling out the races to be competitive. Most marshals believe, and rightly so, that their job is to make the race as competitive as possible and to give each rider a fair chance to tow.

Now obviously in real life it’s almost impossible to do that and there will always be favorites and races where a horse gets ahead of the field, but the marshals even the field a bit. In some races this job is easier than in others.

In many races you will find horses that have recently competed with each other and are now competing with each other again. Often the steward will add a few pounds to those who did better and deduct a pound or two from those who didn’t run as well. I have often heard bettors at the track say sarcastically, “These horses only win by turn.” They refer to a group of horses that often race against each other, each seemingly managing to win.

But to what extent do these same handicaps keep track of the form cycles and the weights that are assigned? A horse that finished two lengths behind the winner in its last race was as good as the winner, especially if they trade a few pounds in their next race. A couple of lengths in a horse race means very little.

The handicapping process means looking at the horses that ran against each other and determining whether the weight limits of today’s race will affect the outcome. Add in the occasional jockey or team change and post positions and you have a puzzle that a good handicapper should be able to solve often enough to show a profit.

And yet the same people who are critical and suspicious of cheating are too lazy or uninformed to make the adjustments and find a winner. If you can find a race where most of the field has recently competed against each other, do the math and compare weights and lengths, you’ll soon have a new appreciation for how important a few pounds are on a tired horse when a photo and the length of a nose is all that separates the winner from the place horse.

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