To the right of the horse’s name in the racing program, there is a three-digit number. This number is the weight that the horse is carrying for that race and includes the jockey and his clothing, plus the saddle, girth, and saddle cloth. Occasionally a horse will carry more weight than stated on the program due to a jockey’s inability to make himself light enough. Such a change will be noted on the tote board prior to the race; the difference is usually between one and four pounds.
The idea of the horses carrying weight is to give more experienced and successful horses heavier weights in an attempt to give less successful horses a more chance at success. All weight carried is based upon The Jockey Club’s Scale of Weights, a formula that has not changed in over one hundred years. While the Scale of Weights is a starting point, the actual weight an individual horse will carry can differ drastically.
As the racing secretary writes races for the card, he will put place qualifying conditions for each race and those conditions alter the amount of weight each horse carries. For example:
Claiming purse $32,000. For Fillies and Mares Three Year Old and Upward. Three Year Olds, 121 lbs; Older, 124 lbs. Non-winners of two races since February 1 allowed 2 lbs. A race since then allowed 4 lbs.
- The above race is only open to female horses that are three years old or older with the three year olds carrying a starting weight of 121 pounds and the four year olds and older carrying 124 pounds.
- If a horse has not won two races since February 1st, two pounds will deducted from the weight for age meaning the horse will carry 119 pounds for three year olds or 122 pounds for four year olds and older.
- If the horse has not won a single race since February 1st, four pounds are deducted from the weight for age, taking the weight down to 117 for three year olds and 120 for horses four and up.
– Fillies always carry less weight than their male counterparts if running in the same race and this difference is usually between three and five pounds. The idea behind this is that fillies are “weaker” than their colt competitors and therefore should be allowed to carry less weight.
– In order to encourage the use of apprentice or “bug” riders, trainers who choose to use to ride their horses will be given lesser weight over choosing an experienced rider. The idea is that the weight allowance will encourage trainers to use inexperienced, but lighter, riders in order to give new jockeys opportunities to ride in races. These weight allowances vary between three and seven pounds in addition to the weight for age and weight for gender allowances.
– When a horse is carrying more weight than a rival, he is “giving” weight to the rival. For instance, if Horse A is carrying 126 pounds and Horse B is carrying carrying 120 pounds, Horse A is giving six pounds away to Horse B
– It is widely believed that every pounds equals one horse length during a race over one mile. Therefore, if Horse A is carrying 124 pounds and Horse B is carrying 120 pounds, Horse B should win by four horse-lengths over Horse A.