FAQ - Weights: Allowances and Penalties


One of the more confusing issues facing the newcomer is when he looks at the race card for the weights that the horses must carry.

When one sees something like 8-10 for a horse's weight, it's apparently clear that the horse is to carry eight stones and ten pounds (or 122 pounds) in weight.

Or is it?

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of Allowances and Penalties


Penalties are easy enough to understand. At least in principle.

If a horse has won in the current week then the BHA won't have come around to recalculate the handicap of a horse and so said horse may now appear, after this recent win, to be better than the Official Handicap mark suggests.

So what happens is that there's a Fudge Factor applied. In other words, the horse is given a penalty and may be forced to carry an extra five pounds, or whatever, in weight.

The important thing to take note of here (and the reason why will become clear later down this article) is that it's the horse that is carrying the penalty and not the jockey.


The younger jockeys, or certainly the less experienced jockeys, may be given an allowance.

This means that if such a jockey is riding a horse then the weight to be carried is reduced by the jockey's allowance. Such a rider is known as a "Claiming Jockey", or "Claimer", because he's claiming some weight to be taken out of the horse's saddle cloth.

Some jockeys can claim three pounds, some five pounds and some seven pounds. For the purpose of this article it's not important to know why each jockey can claim different amounts but the fact that if such a claimer jockey is riding then the horse's weight is reduced.

The important thing in this particular instance is that it's the jockey, not the horse, that's claiming the weight.

The Race Card

So far, so good; this should make some sense.

That is, until we read the Race Card. This can be the Official Race Card that one buys at the course, in The Racing Post, on the web or wherever.

These cards show the weight that is to be carried inclusive of the horse's penalty, but not inclusive of the jockey's allowance.

So, for example, if one sees a race card with a 8-10 horse carrying a 5lb penalty and also a 7lb claimer then the horse is actually carrying 8-03.

This is because the penalty is included in the declared weight that the horse carries. This is, as I have said before, a penalty for the horse's recent run and there is no way of getting out of this penalty. So, this penalty is included into the declared weight of the horse.

Now, the assumption is that there is the possibility that the declared jockey may not ride. So the allowance is provisional and this means the punter has to subtract the jockey's allowance from the horse's weight himself.

In a race where there's a number of claiming jockeys with varying allowances this soon starts to become ridiculous. But, that's the way that things are done in the official racing world.

So, remember to always subtract the allowance from the weight declared.

UK Horse Racing's Approach

As you may realise, we like to do things differently. And, we would like to think it's always for a good reason.

In our race cards we always put the weight that the horse has to carry inclusive of both the penalty and the allowance.

So if a horse is booked to carry a five pound claiming jockey then be assured that the weight we show is that what the horse is expected to carry.

This is for a number of reasons.

First, the Software Model needs to work with the correct information and assumptions of who is going to ride the horse.

Secondly, since that for most of the time the declared jockey is the actual jockey then it makes sense to work with the assumption that the declared jockey is the one riding the horse.

Thirdly, for the punter looking at the ratings it makes his life that much easier if he's looking at the correct data and not have to recalculate the weights.

But What If...?

Okay, sometimes a jockey is, what they say, "Jocked Off". This is where the jockey is replaced for one reason or another.

This could be that the declared jockey is the back of an ambulance heading to A&E after falling in an earlier race, or it could be that he's been stood down for the day for some reason or that the trainer/owner has decided to replace him at the last minute.

In this case the punter reading our ratings will have to return any allowances back by adding it to the weight of that the horse has to carry.

But what if the replacement jockey is also a claimer? That's simple: he isn't allowed to claim his allowance. Which is a good rule because it stops all sorts of last minute shenanigans in the Weighing Room with trainers swapping out declared jockeys for good claiming jockeys.