How Do Top-Weighted Horses Perform in Handicaps?

When it comes to handicap racing, the top-weighted horse is usually deemed to be the classiest (highest OR) in the race; that is why it is forced to carry more weight than any other horse. On the one hand, handicappers in the UK are exceptionally talented and seldom get it wrong when determining how much weight a horse should carry. On the other hand, they are human and occasionally make mistakes.

In this article, I look at the statistics surrounding top weighted horses; with special attention on Flat and All-Weather races. I also show you how to use Racing Dossier’s Speedy Top weights strategy. To pick enough horses for this purpose, I had to wait several days because there are surprisingly few horses that meet the seemingly simple Speedy Top weights criteria. Of course, that is a good thing because quality always trumps quantity.

How Do Top Weights Perform?

If you bet on every horse that carried top weight or joint top weight on all Flat races since 2013, your Betfair ROI would be -4.11% with a win rate of just 13.3%. In handicap races only, the loss increases to 5.89%.

On All-Weather, the ROI is -5.52% with a win rate of 15.42% (loss of 5.35% in handicap races only). In National Hunt races, the win ratio is highest of all at 15.59%, but the ROI loss is also the worst at -8.51% (11.14% in handicaps).

From the start, I see my work is cut out for me because top weighted horses perform rather poorly in handicap events.

Regarding class, Flat handicap races are a punter’s nightmare although focusing on Class 2 led to these results since 2013.

Bets  Wins  Strike Rate% ROI (Betfair)
1423 155 10.89% 9.51%

The strike rate seems low at just under 11% but bear in mind that there is often more than one top weighted horse in a race. In fact, the 1423 bets came from 1,220 races. The overall ROI is encouraging; especially in 2017 with a profit of over 32% on Betfair but this followed a 7.92% loss in 2016.

I came across a very interesting discovery with one caveat; there aren’t many bets per year. Top weighted horses dropping down from Class 1 to Class 2 in Flat handicap (ran Class 1 in their last race) provide punters with a Betfair ROI of over 44%. However, the win rate is just 10.31%, and there have only been 223 such bets since the beginning of 2013.

On the plus side, this tactic offered a profit of 86% in 2016 and is at 38% this year. On the downside, there have been 4 winners from 40 races in 2017, so finding winners is a tricky task since they are usually at high prices.


Let’s reset and take a look at horses that are clearly top weight across all codes. Here is the performance of every such entry since the start of 2013.

Bets  Wins  Strike Rate% ROI (Betfair)
28456 4488 15.77% -7.33%

We end up with a loss of over 7%, but the strike rate is a bit higher than before at almost 16%. This is what happens when you divide by code:

Code Bets  Wins  Strike Rate ROI (BF)
National Hunt 10755 1613 15% -11%
Flat 11385 1747 15.34% -5.99%
All-Weather 6316 1128 17.16% -3.51%

In this case, top weighted horses perform best in All-Weather. When you look at all Class 3 & 5 top weighted horses, the results are better:

Bets  Wins  Strike Rate% ROI (Betfair)
360 64 17.78% 9.15%

Only around 80 or so bets a year since 2015, but these criteria have resulted in a profit in each of the last 3 years. In fact, here is what the stats look like since the beginning of 2015.

Bets  Wins  Strike Rate% ROI (Betfair)
235 44 18.72% 30.7%

If you are wondering why there is a sudden improvement since 2015, the answer is simple: Chelmsford City! Here is what happens at that particular track.

Bets  Wins  Strike Rate% ROI (Betfair)
64 16 25% 91%

Only 25 or so bets a year, but with that ROI, it is well worth waiting for! Here is what to look for to get that amazing ROI:

  • Chelmsford City
  • Class 3
  • Handicap
  • Clearly Top Weight

Now that we have found a few potential winning systems, here is how the Speedy Topweights strategy from Racing Dossier works in action.

Using Speedy Topweights 

To get a better picture, I waited several days to find horses that met the criteria which was a surprisingly difficult task given how simple it seems on the surface:

  • Cloth 1 & 2: These numbers indicate the top two horses in a handicap in terms of weight.
  • ShorPro: 150+
  • Days Since Last Good Run: 60 days or less
  • Win %: 15%+

In the screenshot above, you can see that neither Full of Promise nor Lyric Harmony fit the bill. Both horses have ShorPro numbers below 150.

In contrast, Frank Bridge ticks all the boxes with a ShorPro rating of 151, just 8 days since the last good run and an excellent 33% win ratio. So, is he worth backing?

Successful punters don’t make a bet until they cover as many angles as they can. While it might not be possible to go through everything in depth, at least take on-board data from experts. As you can see above, Frank Bridge stands an excellent chance of winning (“in the form of his life”), so he is unquestionably worth a closer look at least. Alas, although Frank Bridge started off as 5/2 favourite, he could only finish third.

As you probably saw, there were four days between the first bet and this race. As it happens, there might only be a few Speedy Topweights contenders in an entire week. All the more reason to go as in-depth as possible on selections.

It occasionally shortlists an outsider as it did with Wind In My Sails. This is a classic example of deciding whether or not you want to follow any given system blindly. The selection was 20/1 when I checked so was it a value bet?

Recent form suggested the answer was a resounding ‘no.’ Wind In My Sails was beaten 4.5 lengths by Commodity in May and was 6 pounds heavier for the race above. While he won two Class 4 races in 2016, he carried 4 and 8 pounds less in those races. While the race above was on All-Weather, his wins came on turf. In the end, Wind In My Sails ran like an outsider and finished ninth. I bet on Commodity, but sadly, it was not a winning wager as it finished third, 1.25 lengths behind Pensax Boy.

Final Words

If you were not aware of it before, now you should know that a horse’s weight alone should not dictate whether you back or lay them. Top weights in Class 2 Flat Handicap races yield nice profit but from relatively few wins. Patient punters should hold fire and wait for Class 3 Handicaps at Chelmsford City which has offered excellent value for top weighted horses in its relatively short history.

If you’re looking to find the classiest horses carrying plenty of weight, check out Speedy Topweights on Racing Dossier. It is an excellent tool to quickly and easily find the best horses in the field. You can follow the system blindly and earn double digit profit or dig a little deeper to up your win rate and ROI.

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.
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