Which horse do we usually look at first in a race? Of course, it's the No 1 horse, in handicaps the horse the handicapper has weighted as being the best-performed in the race.

The handicapper's first task is to identify the topweight and from that point he can sort out the next best of the nominated horses, according to their merits, class and ability.

Bearing all this in mind, it's little wonder that top-weighted horses have a big following. Systems have been built around them, little punters back them when they can't find anything else in a race, and they are also slotted into exotic bets for 'safety sake'.

You'd think the topweights were manna from heaven. In fact, they really are the horses from hell. I have long suspected such, and recently set about trying to put some substance to my theory.

Steve McAllister, of Tafe's Turf Guide, checked out a whole year's results for me on Open Handicaps and Welters (Saturdays only) at the metropolitan tracks in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. I thought that by sticking to these races we would be looking at the best Opens and Welters to be framed throughout the year, so they'd be races in which the top-weighted horses would be, by and large, quality gallopers.

I suspected that the results would be a shock, but even I wasn't prepared for the outcome. The computerised survey was a real shockerama!

Let's look at the figures for Sydney first: There were 58 races checked in the test period (January 1, 1994 to December 31, 1994) and the topweights won only four races. The outlay, at level stakes, was $58 for a return of only $12.90, a loss of $45.10.

That was thunderbolt No 1. Then we have Melbourne, where there were 41 races checked for just five winners. Betting level stakes, the outlay was $41 for a return of $23, and a loss of $18.

Finally, to Brisbane, where we saw 91 races for 12 winners from the topweights for a return of $50.60, and a loss of $40.40.

Got over the piledriver shock yet?

A total of 21 winners from 190 races, and a total outlay of $190 for a return of $86.50. That's a loss of $103.50. Put another way: Had you been betting in $10 win bets you would have outlaid $1900 for a return of $865 and a loss of $1035.

Things were slightly better using Starting Prices - a return of $96.25 on the $190 outlay.

As far as placings are concerned, there were 57 topweights that finished 2nd or 3rd. Add to these the 21 winners, and you have a total of 78 placings among the 190 bets. This is not even a decent per cent strike rate for the place (around 42 per cent).

The worst months were January (1 winner), February (2 winners), March (1 win), April (1 win), May (2 wins), June (1 win), August (no wins), October (no wins). Then came July (3 wins), September (3 wins), November (3 wins) and December (4 wins).

The best track for top-weighted winners was Caulfield (5 winners), followed by Eagle Farm and Randwick (both 4) and then Moonee Valley (3). As for the dividends? The best price (NSW TAB) about any of the winners was $8.30 from Mapperley's Star at Caulfield on December 31. just below that were Street Ruffian ($7.80) and Air Seattle ($7).

What does all this tell us? Well, to begin with, do NOT expect a high win strike from topweights in Opens and Welters. The very fact they are carrying the highest weights means their winning chances are demonstrably diminished.

Yes, they are good horses but that great leveller of the racetrack, WEIGHT, has caught up with them. Only a minority are able to overcome that weighted handicap - in the above year's testing on the best Opens and Welters only 21 from 190! A little over 10 per cent a miserable tally indeed.

So, take the tip, think very seriously before plunging your money on a handicapper's special!


Turvey 13/4 EF Jan 15
Skilful Star 2/1 Rand Feb 5
Tiny's Finito 5/2 EF Feb 26
Top Guy 13/4 MVall Mar 19
Placido 15/4 San Apr 30
King Marauding 9/2 Caul May 28
Double Your Bet 9/4 Rand May 28
Baggio 7/2 EF June 25
Street Ruffian 7/1 Flem July 9
Alannon 5/4 MVall July 16
Swift Talent 2/1 Caul July 23
Unequalled 4/1 EF Sep 3
Don't Look Now 5/1 Doom Sep 10
Air Seattle 9/1 Wall Sep 24
Alannon 5/2 Caul Nov 26
Miss Kariba 9/4 Rand Nov 26
Striking Gold 13/4 Rand Nov 26
Royal Snack 6/4 Sand Dec 3
From The Park 7/2 Flem Dec 17
Mapperley's Star 11/2 Caul Dec 31
Springhill Lad 7/2Caul Dec 31

By Jon Hudson