Should Handicappers Worry About Weight Assignments?


Forego – Three-time Horse of the Year published an article yesterday titled, “Weighty Question for Wise Dan in Firecracker.“Jack Shinar begins his article by stating, “There’s no doubt he’s the best horse in the race, but can reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan overcome his 128-pound impost in the $150,000 Firecracker Handicap (gr. IIT) June 29 against a modest group at Churchill Downs?”

I cannot believe people still write articles about how much weight a horse has been assigned in a race as if a high weight assignment will somehow cause a horse to underperform. In the more than fifty years I have been handicapping horse races, I have never seen any indication that weight assignments have any effect on the order of finish in a race, be it positive or negative.

Weight assignments do not deserve your attention as slight differences are virtually meaningless. If you worry about how much weight a horse must tote, you are destined for mediocrity as a handicapper. I know of no successful handicapper amongst my personal acquaintances who bothers to look at the weight assigned a horse. Weight assignments are a distraction aimed at amateurs who do not pay attention to the realities of horse racing.

Anyone who has done even a rudimentary study of weight assignments will find that top weighted horses, when assigned a significant amount of weight greater than their rivals, often win. Ta Wee, “who in size rivaled a hood ornament,” won the 1970 Interborough Handicap in wire-to-wire fashion while carrying 142 pounds, 29 more than the runner-up. It was her second consecutive win carrying 140 pounds or more. In 1975, Forego won the Carter Handicap carrying 134 pounds, set a track record while toting 132 pounds in the Brooklyn Handicap, and won the 1½ mile Suburban Handicap carrying 134 pounds.

A brief mention of the issue of weight appeared in a 1986 study published by Ruth N. Bolton and Randall G. Chapman in Management Science, Vol. 32, No. 8, August 1986. Titled, “Searching for Positive Returns at the Track: A Multinominal Logit Model for Handicapping Horse Races” They wrote, “Weight does not seem to be an important determinant of finishing position, given the presence of other variables in the model.”Horse_50x50

If you seriously think weight assignment in horse races is an issue, I suggest you do some research into the mechanics of horse riding.

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