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More than half of the races in Britain each year are handicaps. These are races where the Handicappers try to give each horse an equal chance of winning. We do this by giving the highest rated (or 'best') horse in the race the highest weight to carry; and reducing the weight carried by inferior horses.

For most owners, handicaps offer their best chance of winning a race. Without them, the top horses would almost always win and there would be no point in owning anything other than a top horse.

The BHA has a team of eleven Handicappers whose job is to study and interpret the form. They publish a list of ratings every week based on performances on the racecourse: the higher the rating, the better the horse. If your horse is rated 120 and mine is rated 110 then we believe that a difference of ten pounds in the weights that they carry would give each of them a fair chance.

  • Download our Guide to Handicapping for all the information about how the handicapping system works, including
    - The team of Handicappers
    - How handicapping works
    - Why have handicap races?
    - How a horse qualifies for a handicap rating
    - What is a handicap rating?
    - How the system operates
    - Penalties
    - Weight for age (WFA)
    - Apprentice and Conditional jockey allowances
    - How do Handicappers calculate the merit of the performances?
    - How those performances affect handicap ratings
    - International
  • Visit our Ratings page to view the handicap ratings of every horse in Great Britian
  • Read our weekly Handicappers Blog for all the latest news in the world of handicapping, direct from the handicappers themselves
Most handicaps are restricted to horses with ratings in a particular range, 0-70 for example. That race would not be intended for horses rated better than 70. So the rating not only decides on the weight that your horse will carry, it also decides in which races it can run.

If your horse runs better than its rating then we may raise it. If it keeps running below its rating then it will come down. The very best horses do not run in handicaps.

The expertise of the Handicappers is also called upon in several other ways:
  • On the racecourse we advise the Stewards on all form matters.
  • We work with our international colleagues in selecting the runners in the top races worldwide.
  • We help to decide the World Thoroughbred Racehorse Rankings - the official list of world ratings and champions.
  • We help the Racing and Disciplinary departments when they need our input.
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