Many years ago, a respected racing man told me that about 90 per cent of races are won by one of the three best 'weight contenders' which also rate highly on other essential handicapping factors.

The other 10 per cent, he maintained, were in the 'unpredictable' events or in races in which the figures were so close that the winner could come from six or more of the starters.

What this expert was telling me, quite simply, was that WEIGHT is vitally important in horse-racing selecting. Now dead, this man was a great student of weight and form. His view was that comparison of weights will frequently prove the decisive separator when a bettor is faced with the choice of two or more fancies.

So what, in today's racing, can we really make of weight? In my opinion, a study of weights is just as important today as it was 40, 50 or 100 years ago. The term 'weight can stop a train' is all too true.

But when should the weight factor be used? When should it be taken into account? I have always leaned towards the view that a serious punter firstly analyses all the form and turns his attention to weight only after having decided which horses are in good form, are not outclassed and are suited to the distance.

In other words, weight is brought into play after you have chosen the main contenders in a race. Now, at this point, the following points should prove useful:

(1) Weight usually is no real factor in 2yo races at less than 1200m. If the fastest horse gets in with as much as 2.5kg less than its main rivals and is being ridden by a good jockey, the bet becomes inviting. But weight spreads large enough to neutralise superior speed are unusual in these sprints.

(2) Short sprints up to 1100m for older horses are not so important as far as weight is concerned. Weight carried for a short distance is vastly different from weight carried over a longer distance. You can compare the task to lugging a suitcase around - the further you go the heavier it seems to get. From 1200m upwards, weight starts to count.

(3) Three-year-olds and older horses, and 2yos entered at distances from 1200m and beyond, vary in their weight-carrying ability. If they are well-suited as to class, distance, condition and likely pace, and if assigned a weight no higher than they have carried before in strong performances, then such horses can be confidently backed.

But if the horse has never run well at today's distance when carrying a similar weight, it is probably shaping up as a risky bet. This is particularly true of front-running horses with a tendency to wilt in the run home. It's almost as true of one-pace horses that win only by coming from a long way off the pace.

(4) If the weight assigned is higher than the horse has carried before, but the weight is below 56kg, you should check to see how the horse has fared with 1.5 to 2kg less. Is it the type of runner that seems comfortable only with 53kg and below? Does it fade in the final stages whenever it has 53kg or more?

If it appeals as a tough type of galloper, and qualifies on other form factors, it usually can be conceded the ability to carry 2 or 2.5kg more than it has won with in the past, provided today's race, is a sprint (say up to 1400m). At longer trips, 1.5kg is an equally reasonable assumption.

(5) For most horses, 55kg is the beginning of difficulty at any distance. Except for young, sharp horses, no horse should be regarded as being capable of carrying 55kg or more unless (a) it has already done so with style in a race at today's distance or longer, or (b) it has run a powerful race in recent times at the distance or longer carrying 53.5kg or more.

(6) In races over 1600m and further, weights above 55kg become a real burden, even for the most talented horses. A horse entered in a race of that kind with such a weight can be backed with confidence only if (a) it has demonstrated its ability to carry such a weight, (b) it is in top form and does not come into the race after a recent hard effort under similar high weight and (c) no other runner of equal class has a weight advantage over it of 2.5kg or more.

(7) In races of 1600m and further, it can pay off to keep an eye on weight shifts. Assuming that Horse A had a 2.5kg advantage when it beat Horse B a nose last time out, B deserves consideration if the advantage is cancelled or reversed for today's clash.

(8) At any distance, weight over 55 kgs becomes a 'burden' if the track is rain-affected to the degree of being slow or heavy, especially if most of the other runners have much lighter weights.

(9) A horse running with less weight than it carried in its last race should be looked at with extra respect when it qualifies on the factors of distance, form and Class.

(10) Don't get too carried away by apprentice claims. Quite often, a kid can claim 2 or 3kg off the handicapped weight, but his inexperience might cost the horse twice that in terms of lengths lost in the run! If a trainer waives an apprentice weight allowance in favour of engaging a leading senior rider, the punter should take careful note of the decision.

(11) Except in races over a distance of 2000m and further among horses who are equally-matched in superior class, it is very much a waste of time to worry too much about weight shifts, or weight advantages of less than 1.5kg (one length). Don't be dissuaded from a horse because of a small weight disadvantage like this.

These are just some pertinent points you might 'care to slot into your 'brain bank' on the subject of weight. It has been a hot issue in racing analysis ever since racing began, so if you can't really come to terms with all the ins and cuts of it, don't worry, because you're in the same leaky boat as many, many others!

J.L. Gentry, an American expert, has this to say about the weight issue: "There has long been a controversy among students of the turf over the importance of weight and its effect on racehorses in a race.

"While some maintain that the weight factor is often irrelevant, others insist it is of paramount importance, and there is every shade of opinion in between these schools of thought."

Gentry conducted extensive tests on the importance of weight back in the 1960s in America. He found that of 440 races examined, each winner - on average - carried a half-kilo (1lb approx.) above the average carried by the losers.

"Of importance, is the fact that those horses carrying the heavier loads (above the average) still managed, despite their burdens, to win a majority of the races," said Gentry.

Professional punters in Australia these days will tell you that the best races on which to 'do the weights' are those over which the official handicapper has no control ~ set weights races and weight-for-age events. Very often in these races, you can find weight specials; horses which in handicaps have been forced to concede huge weight advantages to their rivals, but which meet these same horses on very much better terms at set weights or wfa.

In handicaps, the point every punter has to remember is that the horse with the highest allotted weight is considered the best-performed horse in the race. Researcher Fred Davis once said that if weight were the only handicapping criterion the best bet in any race would be the horse with the highest weight.

Says US expert Tom Ainglie: "Logically, race conditions are written to place the, heaviest burden on the best horses. It may not help them win, but it does not defeat them frequently enough to neutralise their superiority."

The following is a special Weight Plus Form selection plan:


(1) Each horse is given points equalling its weight in a race. Thus, a horse handicapped on 57kg gets 57 points, and so on.

(2) Give the top three horses in your morning newspaper tipsters' poll 3 points each. Award 2 points to horses in the 4th, 5th and 6th positions on the poll, and 1 point to any other listings.

(3) Award the 1st, 2nd and 3rd favourites in the newspaper morning betting market 3 points each. The horses on the next line get 2 points and on the following line 1 point each.

(4) Give 3.5 points to horses which had their last start within the previous 7 days (inclusive). Award 3 points for 8-14 days, 2 points for 15-21 days and 1 point for 22-30 days.

(5) For a win or a 2nd in a horse's previous two starts award 3 points. For at least one 3rd place, award 2 points. For at least one 4th, give 1 point. Also award 1 point for a horse which finished further back than 3rd but within 3 lengths of the winner. Consider both the last 2 starts for all these factors.

(6) For any horse with a '0' in its last 2 races, DEDUCT 2 points for each zero.

The horse with the highest points tally is the selection.

Special report by Martin Dowling