PACTOLUS ridden by Callum Rodriguez in The Betway Winter Derby Stakes (Group 3) at Lingfield 23/2/19 Photo Ian Headington /

Handicap Losers and Official Rating Change: A Study

In my previous piece, I wrote about last time out handicap winners and reviewed what differences changes in their rating made when they next run, writes Dave Renham. This time, I am going to look at other handicap finishing positions (e.g. 2nd or worse).

Introduction / Overview

As with the first article I will be sticking to horses which raced in a turf handicap last time out (LTO) and which are running in a turf handicap on their next outing. Qualifying races will be flat turf races run in the UK covering 2016 to 2023 with all profits/losses calculated to Betfair SP less 5% commission.

As I mentioned previously, when any horse runs in a handicap, the official handicapper assesses their performance and will adjust their Official Rating as they see fit. So the first thing I wanted to understand this time was the percentage of ‘non-winners’ that saw their rating go up, stay the same, or go down. Here are the splits:

Your first 30 days for just £1



As can be seen, over half of the runners were dropped in the ratings, around a third stayed the same, while less than one in seven horses saw their OR raised. How did each group fared in terms of results next time? Here is what I found:



Horses that performed better LTO have won more often but the ROI% figures are within just 0.4% of each other.

I now want to focus on horses that finished 2nd LTO.


LTO finishing position 2nd

Firstly, let me look at the general stats based on whether their rating went up, went down, or stayed the same:



In terms of returns there has been a slight edge to those LTO runners up whose rating was elevated. This group has also provided the biggest number of qualifiers, whereas it is relatively rare for such runners to be dropped in the ratings.

Below is a more detailed look at runners-up that were raised in the ratings. The table shows a next time out performance breakdown by specific rating change:



Caution is advised with the profit figures for horses that have been upped by 6lb or more as these stats have been skewed by two winners priced more than 40 BSP at 40.59 and 55.51.

During the study period, over 3000 horses that were 2nd LTO were raised in the ratings by just 1lb. These runners are close to breaking even to BSP, so it is worth digging further to see if there are any interesting stats from within this group.

Class change is one area that I looked at and I would like to share the follow-up results for all LTO turf handicap runners up that were raised exactly 1lb in the ratings, in terms of the class of race change:



These stats show that LTO 2nds when upped in class have proved good value. These runners have also been profitable in five of the last six seasons. In contrast, those dropped in class have provided very poor value losing over 22p in the £ for every £1 staked.

Sticking with these LTO runners up who have been raised by exactly 1lb, let me share their results when looking at the class of race contested:



In terms of the profit and loss column we can see that the two lowest Classes (5 & 6) have both incurred losses, with Class 5 losses especially steep. In contrast, Classes 2, 3 and 4 have all proved profitable with Class 3 results very solid including an excellent A/E index of 1.02.

Finally for this group of runners (2nd LTO / up 1lb) it is worth sharing that if restricting qualifiers to sprint handicaps (5f and 6f only) they have produced a decent profit. This subset of runners won 161 times from 930 attempts (SR 17.3%) for a BSP profit of £127.02 (ROI +13.7%). The A/E index was an impressive 1.01. The even better news is that these results are not skewed by bigger priced successes. Indeed, if restricting qualifiers to the top four in the betting we get the following:



An excellent A/E of 1.04 and returns equating to over 15p for every £1 bet.


LTO finishing position 3rd

Onto horses that finished 3rd on their last start. As I did with runners-up let me start by sharing some general stats based on whether their rating went up, down, or stayed the same. Unsurprisingly, far fewer horses were raised in the ratings compared to those who finished 2nd LTO:



Again, they are a remarkably similar set of figures with no edge to any of the three groups, and the win strike rates indicate a very solid performance by the official handicapper. Let me examine the horses that went up in the ratings and look at the effect of different changes in Official Ratings:



More than half of the runners upped in the ratings went up just 1lb, but they produced losses of nearly 11 pence in the £. Those raised 3lbs made a profit but take out a BSP 70.0 winner and that becomes a loss. Likewise, the 4+ group had two big-priced winners which again made the bottom line look better than it really is. It should also be noted that all 30 runners upped 7lb or more all lost.


LTO finishing position 4th or worse

As we move into horses that did not make the first three LTO, an even greater proportion of these will end up dropping in the ratings as the pie chart below shows.



From this cohort nearly seven in ten run next time with a lower rating, with just 4% getting raised. This should not come as a surprise considering how they ran previously. The splits for each group look thus:



Horses that went up in the ratings have provided the worst returns by a few pence in the £ and, based on next time out win strike rates, it could be argued they’ve been harshly treated as a whole.

With the group going down in the ratings being such a big one I am going to look in more detail at them.


LTO finishing position 4th or worse + went down in ratings

With over 50,000 horses in this sample one would hope to find some worthwhile angles be they positive or negative. So let’s break their records down by looking at the effect of different drops in OR. Firstly, a look at next time win strike rate based OR difference from prior run:



The smaller the drop in the ratings the higher the strike rate. Let’s examine how that correlates with return on investment (ROI%):



There is sound correlation between strike rates and returns: the better value has been with horses dropped either one or two pounds and I would generally avoid horses dropped more than 4lbs.

The most interesting finding concerning horses that were dropped in the ratings having finished 4th or worse was when I looked at their market rank on the betting exchanges. Here is what I found:



Both favourites and second favourites have produced profits, each with strong A/E indices of 0.98. While returns were modest in ROI terms, considering that would have been achieved from backing all such runners ‘blind’ it can certainly be viewed as a positive. Also, this top two in the market group combined to produce six winning years out of eight, thus showing good consistency.

Those fourth in the betting have provided a decent profit, too, and although 3rd favourites did not, the top four in the betting have proved far better value than those fifth or worse in the betting.

Going back to favourites/2nd favourites here are the BSP profits and losses when splitting their results by Class of Race:



There has been promising profit from Class 3, 4 and 5 events, especially when considering market position. Class 2 qualifiers lost a tiny amount, but Class 6 favs/2nd favs have under-performed in comparison. Class 6 races are often contested by more inconsistent types, and considering we are looking at horses that finished 4th or worse LTO, albeit first or second in the betting, I am not too surprised at these poorer figures.


Main Takeaways

Before closing, I have picked out what I think are the strongest positives and negatives uncovered in this research into the impact of ratings changes on beaten horses in turf handicaps.



There are a few areas of interest arising for me so it has been a worthwhile continuation from the last article. In the future I hope to revisit Official Rating Change with one potential idea being comparing their current OR rating with their highest winning rating.

Until next time…

  • DR

Other Recent Posts by This Author:

Your first 30 days for just £1
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.