Horse Racing Handicapping System: How Does It Work? (100% Explanation)

Caan Berry
4 min readMay 23, 2018


The British horse racing handicapping system appears quite daunting at first, would you agree?

Don’t worry! Help is on hand. By the end of this post we will have explained the whole thing, without any of that posh talk you hear on the racing channels.

We’ve broken it down into the following;

  • Why it’s important to understand the UK horse racing handicapping system
  • How the handicapper assesses a horses potential
  • What it means for you and how you can take advantage

Sound good? Let’s start…

Understanding The Horse Racing Handicapping System:

The vast majority of horse races run each year are handicaps, fact.

And so it’s easy to see; why you need to understand how the horse racing handicapping system works. Finding a loophole to exploit (and profit from) becomes far easier when you understand exactly what’s going on. As the saying goes; “knowledge dispels fear”.

As you may also expect, people are prone to taking various actions to benefit themselves financially.

It’s not unusual to see various trainers and owners run a horse over it’s unfavorable distance, track and going in order to reduce it’s handicap mark. Once the handicap is reduced and the horse has an unfair advantage they enter it in ideal conditions and bet, hard.

It’s not cheating, just successfully navigating the handicap system.

Bearing this in mind is a great way to spot those loopholes and opportunities open to exploit for yourself. On the other hand, ignoring them or even being unaware is likely to see you parting with your hard-earn’t cash pretty quick.

We don’t want that for you…

How Horse Racing Handicappers Asses Horses:

To understand exactly how the handicapping system works we need to know what a handicap race is;

In horse racing a handicap race is where each horse is given weight, according to its ability, in attempt to ensure each horse has an equal chance of winning.

Sound’s very fair doesn’t it… it’s rarely the case.

The handicapper asses a horse upon it’s previous race history, which in-turn decides the horses official racing (seen as OR on race cards).

So for example:

The two numbers circled above show the respective horses official rating. The horses rating is directly related to the amount of weight (in lbs) the horse carries. So MOULIN ROUGE is carrying 1lb more than ALOTTARAIN in this instance.

There are many different levels of racing within the handicap system, classed A-G. The former being the best quality all the way down the lowest grade handicaps in G. The horses official rating determines which grade of race it is eligible to enter.

Each horse is given a rating after 3 runs. From this point onwards the official rating will change based on the horses performance.

Common sense, right?

Each week the handicapper assesses a horses ability, making it possible to knock up a quick winning sequence of two or three wins on the same official rating. The handicapper will then give the horse a penalty of 3, 5 or 7 pounds.

Some trainers have made a name for themselves with this kind of behaviour, the most successful being Sir Mark Prescott. Keep an eye out, it happens quite regularly.

Another tactic is for a trainer to run a young 2 year old horse 3 times over a considerably shorter distance than it may like just before the season ends for the winter. Once the racing resumes in April the horse will still have the same official rating.

Of course it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what happens next…

Taking advantage! What to do…

The juicy bit…

Of course it will depend largely if you are straight betting, trading a price or looking for a potential arb.

Either way, the opportunity is similar no matter what you’re doing. The horse racing handicapping system is exploited by trainers and owners, but is quite clear to the general public too. Especially if you’re following what’s happening in the market!

If you see anything like this, pay more attention…

A quick look at the racing post shows a horse with a running history of 907 this season. And then the price has gone from 8/1 into 9/2?

Not really surprising now you know how the horse racing handicapping system works is it.

In this instance you should be making the most of the methods shared elsewhere on this site to make some cash. We don’t really believe in straight punting as it carries a lot more risk, but if you’re going to anyway, bet on this kind of thing (we can only educate you after all!).

If you want to make some guaranteed money though…

We’d advise beginners to start off by backing high with a bookmaker and laying it off lower on the betting exchanges (otherwise known as an arb). These kind of situations will see the prices drop below the bookmakers on an exchange in the live shows (just before the start).

If you’re a little more advanced, you’ll want to look at trading the price as it moves.

Both arbitrage and trading are whole new topics though.

By the way, the horse won.

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Related: Horse Racing Trading on Betfair For £££’s



Caan Berry

Professional Betfair Trader. Author. Blogger. YouTuber. Beer Drinker. Promoted by Betfair & Betdaq. Read the blog here: