Weight is a major factor in horse racing.
Lots of research is done by handicappers, tipsters, writers, trainers and others so that we can all attempt to determine, according to what weight each horse carries, what sort of winning chance they have.
Within all of this, there is a ‘weighing in’ and a ‘weighing out’ procedure for jockeys on race day and we’re going to explain what this means and well as why and how it’s done.
No matter whether its stones, pounds or kilos, racing weights are crucial and are published by all racing authorities around the world.
Every horse in every race must carry the weight advertised. That weight is a total figure, therefore, including the jockey and their equipment.
If a horse is assigned a weight of 9st5lbs and the jockey weighs in at 8st10lbs, then 9lbs worth of lead weights are added to the saddle cloth. This makes the overall weight correct.
Ensuring that the weight is indeed the same as advertised in accordance with the rules of racing, each jockey weighs out before the race.
For many years, traditional weighing scales were used for this purpose. These days, a digital scale is used.
The Clerk of the Scales is responsible for weighing jockeys in and out, the accuracy of the scales and upholding the integrity of the situation.
After officially weighing out, the jockey is free to meet his or her horse and trainer and get saddled up to ride.
In theory, a saddle could be tampered with at this point or weights could fall out of the saddle cloth. Thankfully, this is extremely rare but once again, the integrity of the sport must be protected.
With this in mind, a weighing in procedure also takes place when the race is over.
The jockey, though free at first to speak to the trainer and owner or take a TV interview, must go back to the Clerk of the Scales to weigh in complete with all of their kit and saddle cloth. This procedure confirms that the horse did indeed carry the correct weight as advertised.
Although many bookmakers on course will begin paying out immediately to keep the show rolling, a result is provisional until this act has taken place.
An official announcement always comes to inform racegoers and horsemen that the result is now official which is why when you’re at the track you will here the call “weighed in, weighed in”.
How Accurate Are the Weights in Horse Racing?
You would think a pound or two wouldn’t matter too much when you’re talking about an 80-stone horse. If you thought that however, you’d be very wrong.
In terms of using a weight to handicap horses, they can run wildly differently. A horse may have a rating of 80, win easily, and be put up to 94 meaning it carries 14lbs more in the handicap the next time it runs.
That is more about form and improvement however, while for their part trainers like jockeys where possible to be as close to the advertised racing weight as possible. This means less lead in the saddle which cannot move around, unlike the jockey who can take weight off a horse to some degree by getting their feet out of the stirrups.
The weight they carry really does affect the result. This we know for sure.
There have been lots of examples of famous rivalries, the closeness of the form between horses showing just how accurate ratings and weight can be in the sport. This also shows us why keeping tabs on racing weight is so crucial.
Giants Causeway and Kalanisi
In 2000, ‘Iron Horse’ Giants Causeway announced himself on the scene as a top three-year-old. He won the mile race for his age group at Royal Ascot, while four-year-old Kalanisi won the Queen Anne Stakes over the same distance for the older runners.
They met at Sandown in the Eclipse with each horse carrying the correct weight for their age; Giants Causeway carrying 8-10 and Kalanisi 9-7.
With Michael Kinane and Kieran Fallon unavailable, each horse had a substitute jockey booked in the shape of George Duffield and Pat Eddery respectively.
After an iconic, titanic battle up the straight, only a head separated the two horses at the line with Giants Causeway coming out on top.
A month and a half later at York, the pair met again in the Juddmonte International. Again, the weights were correct as per the weight-for-age scale with Giants Causeway carrying 8-11 this time, Kalanisi carrying 9-5.
Kinane was on hand to ride this time and, of course, every race is run a little differently. Despite this, the pair were once again only separated by a head at the line. Had Kalanisi been allowed to carry as little as 1lb less, for whatever reason, he would have won the race.
Just to emphasise how accurate their form and weights were at the top level, they went for separate races that November at the Breeders’ Cup. Giants Causeway was a very close second in the Classic, while Kalanisi won the Turf.