Should you be a weight watcher?

For as long as there has been betting on horse racing, weight has been regarded as a crucial factor in assessing the likelihood of a horse winning the race. That’s because most punters have enough of an understanding of the laws of physics to realise that weight must have some effect on the speed of a horse. But exactly how much influence is a key question for all of us when doing the form. In the eyes of many punters, the importance of weights seems to have been downgraded over the last few years. So today I wanted to take a look at whether there is any edge to be gained by considering weights as a crucial form factor. Just how important is it? The following table looks at the winning strike-rate and profit on turnover performance of horses by TAB number in all Australian races over the last 12 months: It’s interesting to note that the winning strike-rate drops as weight drops, which runs counter to what most punters believe but obviously comes back to the fact that the better class horses get higher weights. TAB #1 has a winning strike double that of #9, which has a strike-rate double that of #15 and #16. Horses with lower weights are the least likely to win, although again it has to be said that class has a lot to do with this fact. Now let’s look at actual weight carried and we’ve bracketed 5 main groups: Other than strike-rate (where in fact higher weights have higher winning percentages) you can see that there really isn’t a marked difference amongst weight brackets. Another key statistic is comparing horses handicapped at a different weight today compared to their last start. Horses down in weight from their last start had an 8% strike rate for 7% loss on turnover. Horses up in weight from their last start had an 11% strike rate for 8% loss on turnover. There a few other factors to consider when focusing on weight: Weight over the limit is often underplayed, but is more important than simply the actual weight to be carried. By that I mean 58kg’s in one race is not necessarily the equivalent of 58kg’s in another race, because you also need to factor in how many kg’s that is over the limit. You should also remember that the compressed weight scale makes the effect of being top weight less pronounced. Racing folklore has it that 1.5 kg’s is equal to approximately 1 length. For example, if Horse A was beaten 1 length last start by Horse B but now meets it 1.5kg’s better then (all things being equal) they will deadheat this time. But this is very much an arbitrary figure that is only a rough guide and not of much value as a one-size-fits-all approach. Progressive horses in good form are often the best weight carriers because the increase in weight to be carried is more than offset by natural and fitness improvement. So don’t be put off by an improving horse that is also up in weight. I’ll always take a proven winner who is on the up over a horse that is well fancied due to weight relief. Another point is that you shouldn’t focus too much on the weight benefits of an apprentice’s claim unless you are also penalising the jockey for inexperience. What I mean is that you can’t have it both ways. Remember that they get 3 kg’s for a reason so don’t over-estimate the weight relief provided by a claiming apprentice. As a group they lose 7% on turnover, while senior jockeys lose 8% so there is next to no difference. To summarise then: (a) when you’re examining weights to be carried amongst the realistic winning chances, don’t treat 1.5kg = 1 length as gospel. Your main question should be “has the horse proven it can handle this weight?” And if the answer is no, that doesn’t mean you should put a line through it because a weight rise normally means the horse is in form, down in class, or both. The reverse applies too – as a general rule don’t get too excited by a substantial weight drop because that normally means a big jump in class. (b) in terms of a punting edge, there are other factors that are more important in influencing the outcome of a race, and whether you can get value odds on your selections. It’s reasonable to treat weight as a secondary factor in your overall analysis of a race and spend more time focusing on other form factors such as recent form, class, fitness, distance ability, sectional times, tactical speed and jockey ability.