Finding Winners In Handicap Racing

In today’s ever evolving technological environment, the letters “www” are better known as the world wide web and quite rightly so. So, when going through one of my many notepads that include tissues, horses to follow and possible betting strategies, I often see the letters www next to a horses name. It’s not that they’re part of this massively growing technological takeover, far from it. The letters www for me stand for winning with weight.

As I specialise in handicaps, weights are up there in terms of importance, along with my wife, beer and taking regular holidays. When looking at a race that a horse may have a chance in, I’ll assess the weights and see if it’s on a suitable mark. There’s a lot of value to be found in finding horses that are under-estimated by the market but could win under a lower or similar mark than what they’ve recently had to endure.

So, back to the winning with weight. I’ve outlined an example below of how I look at a race and how I lay it out in a spreadsheet.

In the image below you’ll see that I’ve listed all the runners in the 2.40 at Fontwell on Sunday. In the table I’ve shown their previous five runs and then averaged them out. The difference column is whether they’re above or below their current official rating. We need to be looking at the difference column and finding horses that are running very close to their current official rating.

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 18.54.22

The two qualifiers for this race are Kingcora and Itoldyou. Once we’ve found them, we need to go through their form to see if the horse is likely to be capable off its current mark. Of course, form reading can be subjective but this small angle can help you make a better decision around your selections in handicaps.

Looking closely at Kingcora’s form…

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 12.30.16

I couldn’t help but think that he was worth opposing despite being the 10/11 favourite. He’d not displayed any liking in shorter or similar distances, seemed to struggle on the heavy ground in his previous race and was having the same ground underfoot in this race.

Moving on to Itoldyou’s form…

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 12.33.54

there seemed to be a bit more of a case to build for this runner. My only concern was the ground, as it looked like he’d prefer it firmer. This was reflected in the price, and at 10/1 he offered good value.

Itoldyou went on to win by 8 lengths at 8/1 and Kingcora struggled and finally un-seated his jockey.

So, when looking at a handicap race we need to…


  • Look for horses that have proven to be competitive off a mark that’s close to their average
  • Assess whether they’ve gone close when running on a mark similar to their average
  • Check the conditions of the race and see if they’re likely to be comfortable running in them

[/checklist]As with all approaches, paper trade the angle and when you’ve mastered it add it to your selection process.

Next week I’m going to show you how I bet my selections and look ahead to Cheltenham!

Eddie Lloyd

I have been a professional gambler for 3 years now and spend all my days searching for "value" within Horse Racing. I'm also a keen musician and love travelling around the world.


  1. There is an OR value for Double Chocolate of 10. Unlikely???

    This approach wold not pick up a horse who is dropping down ratings as per VifArgent yesterday. How does this measure up over many races rather than just one?

    1. Hi Richard,

      Thanks for pointing that out Richard. It is a typo and should be 100.

      Of course finding Vif Argent yesterday who’d dropped 13 lbs since his first handicap mark would have shown up that he was racing 6.8 lbs below his average. Should further analysis pin point that would be a good bet on the basis that he was on a much easier mark then of course that is based on logic and would warrant a good bet.

      The spreadsheet and the method I have outlined is there to help you analyse the weights in any given race. I advise you use this in combination with extra form reading to confirm selections. I personally look for horses that are close to their average as an angle that has worked well in the long run for me.

      Hope that helps,


  2. Hi Eddie,

    Just read your article on hcap racing and was wondering how you came up with the difference number.
    I assumed you took the average number from the highest OR rating but that doesn’t seem to work so it must be something else.


    1. Hi Dave,

      The difference is the average of the last 5 OR’s subtracted from the OR of the horse today. For example Kingcora’s average was 111.4. I took this from his OR that day which was 111 to give me -0.40.

      Hope that helps,


  3. Lo Michael,
    Do you use the last 5 OR’s regardless – or must they be in “like for like” races. (ie All Weather races – only OR’s in last five AW races
    or the last five whatever). Thanks.

    1. Hi Tom,

      Good question.

      It would obviously not make much bearing on the current race should one of the OR’s be in a different code. If you are looking at the all weather I would pay attention to just the OR’s that are relevant to that code.

      For example in the 3.20 today at Southwell there is a horse called Gogeo that ran in a bumper last time out. I would exclude that and only use the all weather ones. I would use the turf ones as well if they where run on good ground or better. His average OR is 79.2 on that basis then and is running off a mark of 76 today.

      It is up to you to determine whether 3 lb lighter from his average will make him competitive in this race!!

      Hope that helps and let me know if you need anything else.


  4. hi, how did you come to the conclusion Kingcora didn’t like heavy ground.
    It appears his bets performance was on heavy at Ascot, of the races on show it was the most valuable and he finnished closer to the winner than the other races

    1. Hi Dave,

      That’s a very valid point however if you where to watch the race you will see him tiring and he made 2 blunders in the final stages. As I watched the race I came to the conclusion that the ground had made him struggle. This was replicated in the race in the example above where the heavy ground tired him out and he unseated Liam Treadwell.

      Form reading can of course be subjective and that was my opinion having watched the race. Others may draw different conclusions but ultimately I got it right (not always the case of course!)

      Hope that helps,


  5. Eddie

    Thanks for the very interesting article. Do you do this OR analysis first and then have alook at other factors or the other way round.

    I had a couple of picks for today based on form etc Lud 2.40 which picked out Cloudy Joker but after doing your analysis saw that it was 16.5lb heavier than its OR average in this race. You would say that this is a major disadvantage?

    In 3.10 Tau Messena or Sound Investment looked good picks. If you run the OR analysis Sound Investment is running close to its OR average whilst Messena is well above.



    1. Hi William,

      To be honest it is up to you how you do the analysis. Personally I have a ready to go template that I simply put all the numbers into and the calculations are done for me. The approach for me is to narrow down my analysis time as I cover all handicaps everyday. By doing the OR I can see what horses are running close or under their average. They become my qualifiers and then combining stats, form reading and creating my own tissues I come up with the bets for the day.

      I would have said that Cloudy Joker was at a disadvantage, however he did run a good race in the end. Spot on with the 3.10 and of course Sound Investment won with Messena struggling with too much weight.

      My advice is to keep it simple, use the spreadsheet and find some qualifiers then apply form reading to it and you should be finding yourself making some good selections.

      Anything let me know,



  6. G’day,
    I get the whole optimum OR thing for any individual runner, but surely the weight that a horse carries has less to do with a performance than the opposition the horse is racing against. If a horse has won off marks of 68, 69 and 70 say, but those wins were in 0-70 Hcps, surely if the next time it runs off 68 but is in a 0-85 race for instance, then it faces a massively tougher assignment. Yes, I know that weight will eventually stop even the best horses, but in my own handicapping, I always place a higher figure on Class, as opposed to relief in the official Handicap. (Naturally there are exceptions).
    I hear it a lot; such and such a horse has dropped to its last winning mark and therefore is a good bet today. Many such horses are over bet by the public, and it is one reason why horses under a penalty in Hcp Hurdles have such a consistently positive PL from season to season. The perception is that the 6 or 7lb penalty will overcome the class of the horse. Long may that perception continue.

    1. Hi Martin,

      Thanks for your comment. I totally agree with your observations but the article was written to help readers appreciate the importance of weight within a handicap race. Using weight to determine qualifiers is obviously a logical approach when looking at selecting a bet and the next stage as I stated in the article would be to then asses further the horses chance. This would involve as you quite rightly said the class the horse is running in and other factors like the ground, trainer, jockey, distance etc.
      How these are weighted in terms of analysis are subjective of course and some readers may apply more relevance to different factors. There is no right or wrong way, just whatever works for you and of course if it turns a profit then happy days.
      Assessing weights and OR’s is just one approach but if one reader enhances his selection process then I’m happy I’ve helped.
      Good to hear from you,

  7. Hello, here in South Africa horse racing we use merit rating (MR) do you think it will work the same when trying to find the average rating…. not sure how to calculate late that..

    1. Hello Mario,

      Thanks for your comment. The merit ratings will work in the same way as they are just a version of a handicap rating or official rating.
      Hope that helps,

  8. i have studied the AW flat handicaps and found that you need timeform ratings as a guide also which can be downloaded by the race or card

  9. hello, I have had ago at picking a winner via the class/weight scenario but it seems it is all about the top weight against the field and if that OR is faulty then therefore so will be all that follows , and therefore I have found staying away from handicaps is about the best advice I can give though I will add that AW racing form is more reliable giving there are only 3 tracks of form unlike the numerous turf meetings.

    1. Thank you for the info Peter. AW racing is my personal favourite (which goes against the grain of traditional UK racing I know). Handicaps are definitely much tougher to analyse.

  10. Hi Eddie good post you use a very similar method to which I use I also use speed ratings aswell as the or to help make my selections is this something you also incorporate?

    1. Hi Matt,

      Thanks for the comment 🙂

      I only use speed ratings when looking at 5 to 7 furlong races. This can be a great way of finding winners combined with the above method.

      Concentrating on a mile or above then I tend to leave speed out of it and concentrate on horses that have proven themselves over that distance.

      Hope that makes sense 🙂

      Eddie Lloyd

  11. Hi, would you go through every handicap race that day or is there races to avoid when going the cards??

    1. I tend to start with a Foundational Strategy which shortlists the races and horses to focus on. If I wasn’t using those, I would consider all the races but initially stay away from maidens, novices etc.

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