Picking welters is never easy, but there are certain clues that can help.

A short time back, a mare called Clarrie's Turn won in Melbourne against good class at 25/1. She had already won in town so it was no fluke.

This time it was midweek and she could not repeat the dose, although she did run some strong races and once or twice went close. She had carried topweight in that event. They tried better class, and they tried the weekend racing for mares. Weights down, but she didn't manage a repeat this time. They simply couldn't crack another win.

A few weeks back, I looked at the results for a good country meeting and there was Clarrie's Turn, a winner at 11/4. She had been much better odds in the city, but almost 3/1 isn't bad about a city dual winner in a good country welter.

And that's the subject of this article. She went bush after a good welter and she won it with consummate ease. So what is there about a welter that gives a good horse an edge?

If you were to ask ten "experts" (whatever that means) their opinions of welters, you'd get sixteen different opinions (some would have more than one). Let's consider some of the leading theories as to the welter, but first of all, maybe we ought to ask what is it?

A welter is, first and foremost, a heavyweights' event. When you say "he made a welter of it", you mean he laid it on, he came on the heavy, etc. "Don't make a welter of it", you say, when you mean "ease off".

It is, perhaps, the lowest form of open class racing. A horse that has won its way into best open class is still eligible for a welter handicap. A really good one will get what they term "the grandstand" to carry, perhaps, 65 kilograms. Big strong horses can often cope with these huge imposts, and because the class they meet is inferior they can overcome the problems associated with carrying the big weight and still win.

Often a good horse will resume in a welter after a spell. It may get top weight (it usually will, by several kilos). I have a friend who will always back a horse when it is the only one not on the limit weight (the limit is the least the handicapper can allot). He has had some excellent wins with horses weighted at, say, 57 to 59kg and the rest of the field on 53 or 52kg, or his horses at 59 to 61 or even 62kg, and the rest at 54.5 or sometimes 54kg in a highweight. His preferred range is five to seven kilos, as it equates roughly as a stone in the old weights. A stone isn't much when one horse is several classes above the rest!

If the first horse has significantly more weight than the rest of the field this is not a gold pass to success, but it can be a clue. But you might wait half a year for a bet with my friend's plan. For more frequent activity, there is a solution.

The topweight can still be the "gold pass", regardless of the gap in weights, provided you can identify a class difference between it and the rest of the field. Remember we are not concentrating on form, because if the topweight is either returning from a spell or has been racing in better company the form can be very misleading. However, where form is valuable is when it is a backup to your other ideas on the race. If the topweight has been doing well in its races, the handicapper is telling you that this is the best horse in what might well be an ordinary field. ff you believe that the horse is significantly better than the ordinary field, it could be an excellent bet.

The other major theory is that the topweight ought to be quite close to the limit weight! This means that if you find a horse which is classes above the field and it is topweight but not more than four or five kilos above the limit, it must have a natural advantage.

So we only consider the topweight, and we look at (1) the space between it and the rest (i.e. the next weight), and (2) the space between it and the limit (i.e. the bottom weight).

Here are two examples of recent weekend Sydney welter fields. Which one would you chance your money on?


2Pops Dream577/1 scr.
5Critical Point54.52/1
6Noisy Peer5433/1
7Licence Renewed53.58/1
8Our Beau Yang53.514/1
9Sir Slant5325/1
11Happy Warrior5325/1
12Effie And Alice5316/1
14Wally's Choice5350/1

You can see here that one of the two topweights was scratched, making one clear topweight but only asked to carry four kilograms above the limit. You can also see that one of the contestants (Noisy Peer) is featured in our second example.

Hedge's form was superb for a welter such as this. A win in a 1600 welter followed by a big placing on a slow track in a good welter. He obviously carried weight and was in his right class. He drew well (barrier two) and was NOT prepost poll pick, so we could expect value.

Hedge won the race by 1.5 lengths, ridden by Grant Cooksley at around 4/1 favourite, after touching 5/1. He paid $5 on the TAB and better than even money the place ($2.20). The prepost favourite Critical Point (5/1) ran second, with Pentas (7/1) third. Noisy Peer at 160/1 ran fourth.

Here is another race run at Rosehill, about a month later.


2My Diamond Rouge584/1
4Don Carlos54.56/1
5Pops Dream54.510/1
6El Castano5412/1
7Noisy Peer537/1
8Lust For Luck5314/1
9Kei Konei5312/1
11Golden Cocktail5320/1
12Happy Warrior5333/1
13Pass The Ammo5320/1
16Wally's Choice5325/1
There are five kilos between the top two and the bottom 10. Forget apprentice allowances, because when the type of horse we are seeking turns up, he is usually ridden by a good, strong, nonclaiming, fully-fledged rider. And just for the moment forget about the form in that race. This is an example of a welter where no horse has a clear class assessment.

The handicapper hasn't said that one horse stands out in this field. He has two of them a couple of kilos above the next bunch, but nothing of note. The two at the top confuse us, as the handicapper cannot give us a lead. If one were to be scratched, we could take a harder look at the race.

We are sticking to this idea of identifying a superior horse in the field by the simple means of its having a significant weight impost. Race One would be a race to bet on so far as our theories are concerned, where a topweight in a welter has the credentials to beat the rest of the ordinary field.

What, then, do we do about the second example? Is there still a bet to be made, even though we have eliminated the topweights? Going into the first welter, Noisy Peer had poor form for his previous four starts: 3700. Not impressive. Easy to eliminate as you looked for the class factor in the race won by Hedge.

But in that very race, Noisy Peer ran fourth (at 160/1) and indicated that he was getting near a win. His next race was a group three race at Randwick and he again ran fourth.

Then he won this event, back in welter class, carrying a kilo less than he carried in Hedge's race. We had the clue, but this time through the topweight that didn't run in Hedge's race! Pops Dream was handicapped in both events, dropping 2.5 kilos for the latter event. Noisy Peer was regarded by the handicapper NOW as 1.5kg closer to the top of the scale. Sure this race was estimated as harder than Hedge's race, but here was an improver who had run two superb races and the handicapper had said to us "this one is better now than it was then, and I have closed the gap between it and Pops Dream". Noisy Peer won at 11/1 paying $13.90 and $4, a nice collect.

Of course this is not a perfect plan but welters require some thinking out. Sometimes you can consider the topweight and ignore the rest, but other times what happens in a race that you watch can have serious consequences for another welter further down the line.

Welters are where the money can be made, as horses usually line up against each other time and time again. My advice is to very carefully examine the horse at the top of the weights, and also to see how a race pans out after you have done your work on it, with a view to snaring another good chance further on.

By Bruce Gardiner