As the results of handicap races invariably prove, large-weight concessions rarely make winners of outclassed or unfit horses. The principle stands up in all kinds of races, from the lower class upwards. Experts turn their attention to weight only after deciding which horses are in decent form, are not outclassed and are suited to the distance of the race. These horses are the key contenders. It's at this point of the judgement process that weight can be taken into account.

The following ideas might prove useful in the weight assessment process:

(1) Weight usually is not a factor in 2yo races run at less than 1200m. If the fastest horse gets in with as much as 2.5kg less than its leading rivals, and has a good jockey, the bet does become attractive, but weight spreads large enough to neutralise superior speed are unusual in these sprints.

(2) Short sprint races up to 1100m for older horses are not so important so far as the weight factor is concerned. Weight carried for a short distance is vastly different to weight carried over a longer trip. It's like carrying a suitcase; the longer the distance you walk, the heavier it gets. So, from 1200m onwards the weight starts to matter.

(3) Three-year-olds, and older horses, and 2yo's entered at distances of 1200m and further, vary in their weight-carrying ability. If well-placed as to class, distance, condition and pace, and if assigned a weight no higher than carried in previous STRONG performances, a horse can be backed confidently, regardless of any weight concessions to race rivals.

But if the horse has never run well at today's distance when carrying as much weight as it's assigned, it's probably a bad bet, or at least one with some risk. This is particularly true of front-running horses with a tendency to weaken in the run to the post.

It's almost equally true of one-paced 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 in the past, but it's below 55kg, you should check to see how the horse has fared with 1.5kg or 2kg less.

Is it the type of horse that seems comfortable only with, say, 54kg or less? Does it 'die' in the final stages whenever it carries more than 53kg or 54kg? If it seems a fairly courageous horse, and qualifies on other counts, it usually can be conceded ability to carry 2kg or 2.5kg more than it has ever won with in the past, provided that today's race is a sprint.

At longer trips, 1.5kg is an equally safe assumption.

(5) For most horses, 55kg is the beginning of difficulty at any distance. Except for young and sharp gallopers, no horse should be granted the ability to carry 55kg or more unless (a) it has already done so with aplomb in a race at today's trip or longer, and (b) it has run a very strong, reasonably recent race at the distance or longer with 53.5kg or more.

(6) In races at 1600m and longer, weights in excess of 55kg become a worry. A horse entered in a race of this kind under such a weight impost can be backed with confidence ONLY if (a) it has demonstrated its ability to carry such a weight, (b) it is in great form and does not come to the race after a recent though losing effort under a similar impost, and (c) no other fit runner of equal class has a weight advantage of 2.5kg or more.

(7) In races at 1600m and longer, it pays to keep a close watch for weight shifts. Assuming that Horse A had a 2.5kg advantage when it beat Horse B by a nose last start, then B deserves consideration if the advantage is cancelled out or reversed in the current race.

I hope these thoughts on the issue of weight prove helpful to you. It always pays to give consideration to this aspect of the selection process.

Always remember this advice: Condition, class, distance, barrier and jockey are factors of such fundamental importance that weight differences seldom obscure them.

Of the many races run every week at city tracks, the outcome of one or two may be attributable to the effects of weight. In the others, weight is one factor among many, and not decisive.

By Philip Roy