Why do some horses wear a ‘weight cloth’ during races?

Over half of horse races in the UK are handicapped, which means weight cloths are often worn

horse racing weight cloth


Horse racing equipment is not exactly something a newcomer to the sport will know much about. You may recognise the jockey’s silks and how the horses are numbered on the saddle. But in reality only those who truly follow horse racing betting know about – and care about – blinkers, tongue ties and shadow rolls.

Yet racing equipment is vital for ensuring horse races are run properly and safely. And one of these items of additional gear used during a horse race is a weight cloth. Here, Paddy Power explains what weight cloths are all about…

Weights in horse racing explained

Before we look at what a weight cloth is, first we need to understand what weights in horse racing are actually all about. When you access the racing betting odds you may see that some horses are carrying more weight than others. This is because they are handicapped – a metric used to determine how much additional weight a horse should carry.

The handicapping system makes horse races much more competitive, so bettors can be assured that the favourite won’t always streak ahead to victory. Weights act like an index, where a horse has pounds of lead weight added or taken off their back depending on their Official Rating (OR).

If a horse has a greater OR compared to its rivals, it will receive more weight on its back. The weight is a combination of jockey and riding gear, with lead weights added to make up any shortfall.

horse racing weights explained

Silent Queen has a rating two points higher than Caribbean Sunset, and so carries two pounds extra weight (PP)

So what are weight cloths?

When lead weights are required to bring the horse up to the specified weight, a weight cloth is worn underneath the saddle. The weight cloth is safely fastened and has pockets on the side, where the lead plates can easily slide in.

Lead is heavy but not bulky, and the jockey will ensure the weight is evenly distributed across the weight cloth.

How a weight cloth affects racing betting

In reality the weight cloth itself won’t affect the racing betting odds or starting prices. That’s because the equipment in itself isn’t a hindrance to the horse, other than because it carries the lead weights. The weight cloth is designed to sit with the saddle, so the horse doesn’t notice it.

And this means that when you’re betting on horse racing, you don’t have to be concerned about the weight cloth. Instead, variables to look out for when picking a winner is the form, OR and weight carried.



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