What is an Allowance Race in horse racing? Paddy’s guide reveals all

Allowance race betting is a great way to learn about horse racing and understand why weights are attached to horses

Allowance race horse betting at Paddy Power


Allowance races in horse racing are one of the lesser known intricacies of this great sport that newcomers to racing betting may not be aware of.

But fear not because Paddy Power is here to provide everything you need to know about allowance races!

Realising that horses run with weights attached is one of the first things rookie punters will learn about. The reason for the weights is to level up the disparity between horses running, in order to make the race – and in turn the horse racing odds – more competitive.

When you watch elite races such as the Oaks or the Epsom Derby, you’ll be watching horses run with lead weights attached to their saddles. This is called a handicap and is designed to aid competition.

However, weights are also used in lesser races in order to give inexperienced jockeys, young horses or even a horse with a different gender an advantage. And these are what are known as allowance races, or conditions races.

Allowance race explained by Paddy Power

The Liverpool Hurdle is an allowance race (conditions race) at the Grand National Festival (GETTY)


In practice, an allowance race is a step up from claiming races (where horses are for sale) and is part of the progression to bigger, more important races such as Stakes races in America. They are also called conditions races and are run on Flat and National Hunt meets in the UK and Ireland.

The best way to describe a conditions or allowance race is to say what it is not. As the BHA say, an allowance race is: “(not) a Handicap Race or a Novice Race, a race restricted to Maiden Horses, or a race governed by Selling or Claiming provisions.”

Weights are added to each horse in relation to the condition of the race. These conditions include the experience of the jockey (amateurs get less weight), the age of the horse, the sex of the horse (females get less weight) and the quality of the runners. Should a horse be at a disadvantage in any of these fields then they may get an ‘allowance’ to reduce their weight load.

In general allowance races stick to particular conditions, such as an age restriction, or that a horse must have only run a maximum number of races, or have won a maximum number of times, in order to compete.

These are different to handicap races, where weights are determined by an official handicapper on an individual basis. While allowance and handicap races are similar, the latter takes into the specifications of every horse running, while the former provides a more broad overview of disadvantages to runners.

When it comes to racing betting, allowance races can be a great source of big-odds wins because some horses cope with the set allowance better than others.

Punchestown Races Champion Stayers Hurdle with Paddy Power

Punchestown Races hosts the allowance race the Champion Stayers Hurdle (GETTY)


There are plenty of allowance races or conditions races in the UK run every year. Grand National week at Aintree sees the running of the Liverpool Hurdle, which is for horses aged four and over. Four-year-olds carry 10 stone and 13 pounds of weight, while five-year-olds carry a further eight pounds. Fillies and mares get a seven-pound allowance.

Punchestown’s Champion Stayers Hurdle also provides the same weight variables, apart from horses that are aged five and over must pack on 11 stone and 10 pounds.

TIP: Remember to always look for the weight a runner is carrying when horse racing betting, as this could give an indication of its chances of winning.


Check out more guides in our Demystifying Racing series…


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