Assigning Weights to Horses

Why Are Race Horses Assigned Weights in Races?

Ever wonder why horses are assigned weights in any given race? Well, the simple answer is to give all of the horses a fairer chance at winning the race. Essentially by assigning weights to each horse it provides an even playing field for the horses and bettors alike. In other words, “better” horses will carry more weight than “lesser” horses. Let’s take a look at an example from Charles Town on May 8th in the 8th race and see this in action as it applies to a past performance-

Assigning Weights to Horses

Notice the area highlighted in the image above. For this race, 3 year olds are assigned 120 lbs and older horses are assigned 123 lbs. This is the basis for where the weight assignments will begin. From there, other weight allowances are applied. Non-winners of a race at a mile or more since April 8th are allowed a 2 lb deduction from their base weight. Non-winners of a race since March 8th receive an even better allowance of a 4 lb deduction. There are also a few more stipulations here as well, but you get the point.

Now let’s take a look at one of the horses-

 Weight Assignments to Horses

As you can see from the past performance above, Burnt Offering has been assigned 119 lbs. Based on what we know from the race detail before, Burnt Offering started with  the 123 lb weight because he was older than 3 and because he hasn’t won since before March 8th, he was allowed to deduct 4 lbs putting him at 119 lbs.

How Horses Are Assigned Weights

Now that you know what you are looking at and why horses are assigned weight, let’s talk about how. All weight that horses must carry in a race is based on The Jockey Club Scale of Weights. This has been around for over a hundred years in horse racing, and gives each horse a starting point for the weight to be carried.

From this base weight, any additional allowances are factored in by the Race Secretary for each track. The Race Secretary will make adjustments in his/her Condition Book based on what type of race is running, whether any of the horses have raced against one another before, how well they have ran in past races, whether they are state-bred, and many other factors that go into it.

Utilizing Weights in Handicapping

Weights can obviously make a difference in a race, but is there a way to utilize this information to help you in your handicapping methods? Absolutely! Although they are designed to make the race an “even” playing field, there are some insights that can be made from looking at the past performances of a horse. Here are a few things to consider when looking at a past performance and determining how well the horse will run given that days weight.


  • The easiest thing to spot is to locate the horse with the most weight. As a general principle, the horse with the highest weight is supposedly the “better” horse. This is not any indication that he will win the race, but be sure to look this horse over and see if the weight that’s been applied is suitable for him. Also check to see how his weight stacks up to all of the others.
  • Take weight comparisons into account.Take a look at all of the horses and see if they have carried the same amount of weight over the same distance and performed well. If you find one that has, you might have a contender.
  • Look for special allowances that might give the horse a better advantage. For instance, if a weight allowance is given to a state-bred horse then this could definitely work in his favor since this allowance (being state-bred) is no indication of his past performances.
  • Beware of the bug-boy! A bug boy is a jockey apprentice that receives a special weight allowance when riding against other, more accomplished jockeys. This can be an advantage for the horse as well.



Some handicappers pay close attention to the horses’ assigned weights, while others neglect it entirely. How do you utilize these weights in your handicapping efforts?

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Handicap Horses

Co-lead Author & Admin at Handicap Horse Racing
Mike Lane, Sr is co-lead author and administrator of With over 38 years of experience and a degree in the "School of Hard Knocks" for handicapping, Mike has seen it all when it comes to thoroughbred racing and wants to help other horse players learn how to handicap and avoid the mistakes he has made in the past.

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