Trading Handicaps on Betfair…

Posted on Posted in Betfair, Horse Racing, Trading Strategies

So this week I’ve taken a bit of time out as you know to look at some of the underpinning factors in the markets. Some old, some new. I decided looking at Handicap races in more detail would be more important than most as Handicap races make up around 50% of the racing in the UK.

Understanding what a Handicap race is in finer detail might offer a better approach towards trading the races itself. For those of you that are heavily are into your racing this may be pretty obvious so apologies if that’s you…

A handicap race is where all horses entered in the race are allotted weight based on their ability in order to equalize (as much as possible) their chances of winning. If the handicapper was to set the correct mark for each horse in the race and they all run to the best of their ability then in theory they should all cross the winning line at the same time. From a trading perspective this may lead you to thinking all the prices should be similar with little movement in the odds leading up to post time which, would be correct ‘in theory’ in an ideal world. However there are still plenty of variables to consider which has a knock on effect on the Horses odds/implied chance of winning.

The good thing about Handicaps is there is often a fair amount of form as a horse needs to have run a few times or of won to qualify for a handicap mark, having more form about a group of horses in a race often means the market has a more informed opinion of them and thus the prices move that bit less unlike races such as ‘bumpers’ or ‘National Hunt Flat races’.

The handicapping system is the responsibility of the British Horse racing Authority, once a horse has run often enough to be assessed it is given an official rating. The rating will be in the scale of 0-140 for flat racing and 0-175 for jumps. Once a horse has received a handicap mark it is eligible to run in handicaps. The horse’s rating will determine which class of handicap it can enter. You may have noticed the ‘Class’ ratings on the racingpost or other form sites you use for the jumps it is as follows;

  • Class 1 Pattern (Group 1,2 and 3) and Listed races
  • Class 2 Open Handicaps and Handicaps 0-140+
  • Class 3 Handicaps 0-120 and 0-135 and Novice Handicaps 0-120 and 0-135
  • Class 4 Handicaps 0-100 and 0-115 and Novice Handicaps 0-100 and 0-115
  • Class 5 Handicaps 0-85 and 0-95 and Novice Handicaps 0-85 and 0-95
  • Class 6 National Hunt Flat Races and Hunter’s steeplechase

The ‘quality’ of the races flow from top to bottom… as you can see a Class 5 Handicap for example isn’t as appealing as a Class 2 with a significantly lower ‘OR’ (Official Rating). For that reason it would be fair to make the assumption a Class 5 handicap may attract less betting money and have less previous form on offer than the Class 2, thus meaning it would be more volatile (again in theory). See where this could be going in terms of trading the markets?…

So once a week the handicapper has the opportunity to revise a horses rating which can throw up some interesting prospects in itself for punters and traders alike, for example if the horse was to win early in the week by 5 lengths only to be entered again later on that week off the same mark in the same class race….. this is where the term ‘ahead of the handicaper’ can come in as you may have heard commentators say on the racing channels.

I haven’t gone in much deeper yet although its something I shall explore further even if it comes to nothing as I would expect it can present some clues as to how the betting public view the races.

For example a more extreme situation may be a horse runs one week and is ‘ahead of the handicaper’ winning several times, meaning the handicap mark is drastically increased the following week… possibly with the price going walk about on these occasions, especially if it’s a situation where the ground has changed and is unfavourable in comparison to the previous week. On the other hand you may have seen a horse run several times over an unfavourable distance, track, going at a mark of 100 to be dropped down into Class 5 again (0-95) before being produced in a race off a lenient mark on the right conditions, not to mention the possibilities of jockies being booked for their ‘clam’ status.

Anyway that’s enough rambling from me but some interesting angles to look at there when attempting to find horses that could end up being weak or strong in the live shows. I’m learning more and more about this by the day so if you have any input or anything I may have slightly wrong in the post feel free to comment!!

8 thoughts on “Trading Handicaps on Betfair…

  1. For that reason it would be fair to make the assumption a Class 5 handicap may attract less betting money and have less previous form on offer than the Class 2, thus meaning it would be more volatile (again in theory). See where this could be going in terms of trading the markets?…

    Caan, what does that mean “have less previous form on offer than a class 2”? A class 5 is just for horses with a lower handicap mark than a class 2 and there can be more or less previous form on offer in any class of handicap. It is just the horse is currently rated in a lower class, even if it has run 20 times????? Can you please clarify your point here. Thank you.

    1. Ahh yes I see what you mean Simon. Which is also true, i guess the point im making there is as new horses come into handicap company (just awarded a rating etc) then they may not have so much form… not necessarily all horses in the race. But again a reason to throw up more volatile situations where as you might expect in a class 3 the horse will generally have been around that bit longer having a bit more form for the market to work on and attracting more cash – meaning it ‘should’ be more stable… does that make a bit more sense?

      Obviously their only fairly slack guidelines and I know what you mean as it won’t always be the case, but if nothing else it could be a confidence aide when trading – for example in a class 1 race on opening the market it would be fair to say the market is less likely to take your stake and bugger off for 10 ticks…. where as trading a class 6 race could be a completely different affair. Still looking into it all really at this stage but thought it interesting if nothing else.

  2. Hi Caan, you mention quite a few times about having an opinion on how a market will behave Fundamentaly. Obviously having knowldege about Handicapping will form more of an opinion. i struggle when i form too much of an opinion, and if the market doesnt conform to that opinion i get caught out.

    How do you deal with possible ‘information overload’ and keep an open mind with all the variables?

    1. Yes I have experienced this too previously. At this stage its not something I use in a bit way but more a case of interest in the search for some larger more-scaleable edges. At the moment trading I’d try not to pay too much attention until i’ve found anything significant. Having a rough idea how a market will behave though is always beneficial… if its volatile or not etc

  3. You’re talking nonsense re the different classes of h’caps and imo if you start delving into form then you may as well become a punter. A Class 6 h’cap can have 12 runners that have run dozens of races each and a Class 2 you may have a couple of horses having had their 3 qualifying runs and been allocated an OR sufficiently high enough to run in a better class h’cap or Listed. Form in the book is there whatever the class of race. Stick to understanding how the markets work Caan. You’re not a punter and you have no need to be. Next you’ll be telling your followers to look out for trainer/jockey form.

    1. Hi ‘Gordon Brown’ or ‘Mr Jones’ or whatever alias your under today. Thanks for the positive feedback. I haven’t told anyone to start delving into form but just highlighted a couple of things I have been looking at recently, how useful they are yet im not certain. If you are though then feel free to share something useful!

      The form point is of course valid although different classes of race attract different levels of interest and so from a trading perspective rather than punting I can see it being of some use in terms of estimating volatility at the very least as a bumper doesn’t behave the same as a Listed race as you so mention. I don’t intend to be a form student although having a full understanding into the racing can only be helpful when trading the markets imo, its no secret that some trainers run their horses over unfavorable distances/ground/tracks to reduce the handicap… in such instances where this may have happened and the next race they show in are backed extremely heavily I would be inclined to have more faith in a market move. As for trainer/jockey combinations that could be a foolish comment depending on how it’s meant.


  4. Hi Caan. Do you know by any chance what are the Grade type of racing and the Devision in handicap racing. For example the racing at Wolverhampton at 9:15pm yesterday. Thank you.

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