Reading a race card when horse racing betting can be tricky for punters who are new to the game – and one part of the card that often baffles newcomers is the Official Rating (OR) number assigned to each horse.
You might not think much of the OR when you’re pouring over a race card. Perhaps you’re on the lookout for better odds, a lucky number or even strong form as the basis for backing a horse.
WHAT ARE HORSE RACING RATINGS?
As we explained in our previous guide on why horses have different ratings, the OR is a metric that gives race organisers and handicappers a system for creating competitive races.
Each horse will be assigned a number, which can rise and fall on a weekly basis depending on how the horse fares in races.
Horses in the National Hunt have a rating of 0 to 170 and those in the Flat season have a rating of 0 to 140. The higher the rating, the higher the standard of race a horse can run in. What’s more, a horse with a higher rating will have to carry more weight than one with a lower rating.
SO HOW ARE HORSE RACING RATINGS CALCULATED?
Rating a race horse for the first time is actually fairly simple for the handicappers. A young horse will earn its first OR when it has either:
- Won its first race
- Finished in the top six in three races
A horse that does the latter is likely to get a low starting rating, say around 50. Should it begin to win races or place highly then the handicapper will increase its OR. Likewise, a horse that perpetually loses races will see its OR plummet.
Handicappers calculate the ratings based on a number of factors, with the biggest one being the weight carried by a horse and its outcome in a race. The BHA will also create performance figures for each horse, which factor in:
- the racecourse
- the distance
- the ground
- the draw
- the relative weights carried
- the tempo at which the race was run
These figures require some pretty complicated maths but the outcome is that handicappers can confidently judge the rating of every horse competing in the National Hunt and Flat seasons.
CAN A HORSE LOSE ITS RATING?
Yes, a horse can lose its official rating. This happens when a horse has been absent from horse racing action for nine consecutive months. At this point their rating is expunged from the records.
An owner or trainer can apply to have their horse’s OR reinstated. When this happens, the handicapper will provide a ‘re-introductory mark’ that may be lower than the OR the horse previously had.
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