This information forms the basis on which The Whip performs its detailed analysis on each race.

Analysing Sprint Racing

Sprint Racing is the most difficult races to predict when using weight as your basis for prediction. Over 20 years of The Whip race statistics prove that races up to and including 1400m have a lower strike winning strike rate when compared to races at 1600m and beyond. The longer races are much more predictable and their strike rates for the No. 1 selection are outstanding in some cases. It is important to know the running styles of all the runners to determine just how the race is likely to pan out.  Sort them into likely front runners, on-pace runners, mid-field runners and the back-markers. The following questions should be considered:

  • Are there any fast beginners that might make the front runners work harder than they are used to?
  • Is the track a tight one in which the back-markers will find it very difficult to get a clear run when needed in the run to the finishing line? See Track Bias
  • Will the usual on-pace runners be left further back than usual because of the fast-pace up front? Or will the back-markers be suited by the fast pace up-front and swoop home over the top of the tiring front running division?

A technique that The Whip often uses when they feel there may be an unusual pace is to use highlighting pens. We suggest bright yellow, green, blue and pink. Colour code the runners into:

  • Frontrunners – bright yellow.
  • The on-pace runners – green.
  • The mid-field division – blue.
  • The back-markers – pink.

By using this simple technique you quickly can sort out the likely positions in running at various distances of the race. Then you can go back and look at every horse and penalise them if you consider that they will be disadvantaged in the running of the race. For example:  There may be a moderate back-marker with an apprentice on-board on a tight track like Caulfield. An obvious area where an extra penalty for lack of skill in steering the horse home in the short straight run to the finish might be called for. The front running horse has an apprentice on-board who has won on it before. You might reduce the horses JF (Jockey Factor) to zero as you feel the horse will suffer no disadvantage out front and has the class to keep going strongly to the line. So many possible scenarios that make sprint racing the most difficult of all the races in which to handicap. The better you are at predicting the likely running positions of each runner the better your handicapping will become.

Barrier Factors

” Most average horses are disadvantaged by certain barrier positions at various tracks.” When you enter a barrier against a horse in The Whip, the program automatically adds a barrier penalty factor (BF).  Every major track in Australia has been entered and the barrier factor for the particular distance has been calculated. It takes into account the individual track layout. Even the state of the track condition is taken into consideration by The Whip. If the track condition is either side of “Good” then the barrier factors are adjusted. If very wet tracks then a major reduction in the BF takes place. If the track is “Record Fast” then the barrier factors are adjusted upwards. Do not adjust the BF unduly. One exception might be when you know that the horse in question is a fast beginner who will not be troubled by the outer barrier.

First-Up Form

The outstanding form paper “The Sportsman” gives you the First-Up from a spell performances of each horse under the detailed form section. Don’t confuse this with First-Up from a Let-up. A let-up is when a horse has not raced from between 6 weeks to 11 weeks. A word of caution, just because a horse ran well First-Up from a spell as a younger horse, say as 2yo or 3yo does not guarantee that the horse will repeat these performances this preparation. Check where the performance took place before you presume that the horse will repeat it this time.  Check it’s trackwork. Again this information is usually found in the trackwork section of The Sportsman. Has the horse undergone any barrier trials and if so, has it performed well? Is the trainer one who normally sets his horses for a first up win or not? If your homework convinces you that the horse is ripe for a good first-up run by all means definitely include it amongst the chances. Remember when you are looking at past performances to add any WFA (Weight For Age) Improvement that might be expected now the horse is older. After determining where the horse will rate First-Up this preparation, use this figure as your BRR (Best Recent Run) for the upcoming race. On the other hand it might be well handicapped and could easily win the race. As distances increase so does the likelihood of finding a first-up winner decrease. Up to 1100 the winning horse can be First-Up about 26% of the time. Over 1200m this might drop to around 15% while over 1400m it could be as low as 8%. Only astute trainers can condition a horse to win at 1600m and longer.

Second-Up Form

Some horses need the hit out from a first-up run to bring on their race fitness to allow them to win or race-up to their potential. If this is the case, they often can win second-up. The Sportsman gives you the second-up performances in their detailed form section. While this is undoubtedly extremely useful, it can be a trap for those handicappers who are not prepared to put a little bit more effort into their form analysis. At the previous second-up attempt, while they may have won or were placed, it may have been against mediocre opposition over a different distance.  The second-up attempt this time might be against a stronger class and at a distance which might not be ideal. The horse might improve just like they did last time in, but not enough to beat the superior class of today’s field? By keeping your past performance form ratings up to-date in The Whip you can quickly go back and see how the horse rated, then add any weight for age improvement expected and then use this figure as the possible BRR for this race. Under the circumstances of this race the horse may be well in on the weights or conversely it might be out of its depth.

Let-up Form

Horses often require a break from racing. They may have lost form, or suffered an injury or simply the trainer wants to freshen the horse for another campaign. They are not given a full spell of 3 months or longer but are given 6 to 11 weeks off racing which we call a let-up. Some horses perform very well in their first run back from a let-up and others need a run or two to return to their best ratings. By studying the past rating performances when returning from a let-up you will be able to ascertain how well the horse might go in the upcoming race. History shows that in sprint distances more horses perform reasonably well when returning from a let-up. They may be right back to where they left off before the break. Others may be 3 to 6 kilograms below where they left off before the break. As distances increase it becomes very difficult for most to match the race hard fitness levels of the opposition.

Horse Jockey Riding Combination

Often a jockey of lesser skill manages to ride a great race on a particular horse. If they have done this on 2 such occasions in the past, then the Jockey Factor penalty could be deleted completely if you are satisfied that the Horse/Jockey combination is a good one and should result in another well-judged ride. If uncertain, reduce the penalty by about 50%. Some bad jockeys can ride well at times but over the year their inconsistency shows up and the bad judgements seem to re-emerge.


The Whip has most of the riders currently active in Australian and some New Zealand racing. The penalties or bonuses are automatically adjusted accordingly when a jockey is allocated as the rider. The best jockey in the land may be riding about 18 to 22% winners to rides. A very high win strike rate. You would have this world class jockey on a 1.5-2kg bonus. The above average jockey may be riding between 13% to 17% and you might have a riding bonus ranging from 1.2kg to 1.4kg. The average rider might be around 9 to 12% and no penalty or bonus would be recommended here. Below average riders tend to range below this level of success. These penalties would range from -2.2kg for the worst to a -.4kg.

Pace in Races

Many handicappers rely on the pace that horses travel in races as a guide to where the horse will finish in an upcoming race. The Whip does not take this variable into consideration as there are too many areas to consider to make it reliable as a guide. If you are able to guess the likely pace in a race and think that it will suit a particular horse in this race, then I suggest you give that horse a bonus of 1kg or 2kg.

Rating Provincial and Country Track Form

New South Wales Prov. & Country The major tracks in NSW that come under the Provincial Circuit are:- Newcastle, Kembla Grange, Hawkesbury, Wyong, Gosford and Canberra (ACT). These races are usually held mid-week. Most other tracks should be classed as Country tracks for rating purposes:- Ballina, Cessnock, Goulburn, Gundagai, Gunnedah, Grafton, Inverell, Moree, Monuya, Musswellbrook, Nowra, Queanbeyan, Scone, Tamworth A HINT. Look at the prize money on offer. If it is roughly the same as the Newcastle or Hawkesbury races then it could be safely assumed that the class might be up to Provincial class ratings. CAUTION Most times the Saturday form at some of these venues is usually lower in grade than their mid-week events. BE AWARE Sometimes Country tracks have carnivals. Check the prize money and the quality of the horses. These races most times could be looked on as Provincial Class. A TRAP Sometimes the Provincial form is so low in grade that they could be relegated down to Country race meetings and their ratings. PROVINCIAL Quality Handicaps sometimes attract city class horses. Again look at the prize money and the class of racehorse entered. You might consider these races to be equal to the Metropolitan Saturday city class event and sometimes even equal to a Quality race or higher. 3 YEAR OLDS around January, February or March each year there are special races for 3yo’s that carry huge prize money in Northern New South Wales. Some of these 3yo Quality H’caps could be rated as you would if they were starting in Sydney metropolitan area on a Saturday. Often this form holds up well when they take on the city 3yo opposition. Victorian Provincial & Country Form Because it is usually quicker to get to Provincial tracks in Victoria the class of these races are reasonably higher than some of NSW provincial tracks. The main Provincial tracks are:- Ballarat, Bendigo, Cranbourne, Geelong, Hamilton, Kilmore, Kyneton, Moe, Mornington, Pakenham, Sale, Seymour, Werribee and Yarra Glen. The Country tracks usually are quite lower in standard:- Ararat, Avoca, Benalla, Colac, Donald, Echuca, Horsham, Kerang, Swan Hill, Stony Creek, Tatura, Traralgon, Wangaratta and Warnambool, TIP. Look at the prize money on offer before deciding whether a track is Provincial or Country. Often some open class events are called Quality Handicaps however the prize money is too low and they have attracted the normal Provincial and/or Country horses. Treat these like Open Handicaps. CARE. Sometimes the form at the Provincial tracks is as low as the Country tracks. Watch for Saturday racing at these venues. Often it is much lower than the mid-week events. There are times when the Provincials have carnivals where they run Quality Handicaps which attract city class runners. Treat these with respect. Go over the previous form of the runners to determine what rating to give these races. Queensland Provincial & Country Form This is relatively easy to sort out. The centres close to Brisbane are the Provincial races and they include: Caloundra, Gold Coast, Ipswich and Toowoomba The Country tracks vary much more than other states. As a rule the major provincial towns on the eastern seaboard are slightly stronger than the inland townships. They could be separated like this: Townsville, Rockhampton, Cairns and Mackay On most occasions, Townsville and Rockhampton might be 1k stronger than the other two. The lesser quality Country tracks worthy of a mention could be:- Atherton, Ayr, Beaudesert, Bowen, Bundaberg, Eidsvold, Esk, Gatton, Gympie, Gordonvale, Home Hill, Innisfail, Kilcoy, Mt. Perry, Murwillumbah, Mt. Isa, Nanango, Roma, Stanthorpe and Warwick. South Australia Provincial & Country Form This state has a few stronger Provincial centres compared to it’s country tracks:- Balaklava, Gawler, Murray Bridge and Strathalbyn Country tracks are numerous but a few that come to mind are:- Bordertown, Clare, Halidon, Oakbank, Mt. Gambia, Port Augusta, Port Pirie Again, Prize money on offer plays a big part on what class of runner is attracted. Sometimes the major Provincial tracks can be only a little stronger than the Country tracks. Western Australia Provincial & Country Form Being such a huge state, the centres close to Perth are the obviously stronger than the other circuits. However, I prefer to class all races outside the two main Perth tracks as Country for my rating purposes. Tasmanian Provincial & Country Form All tracks in Tasmania apart from Elwick, Mowbray and to a lesser degree Devonport should be treated as Country tracks. The class of Tasmanian form is well below that of their mainland counterparts. The rare specimens like Alfa or the great stayer Piping Lane are the exception naturally. Once a horse shows any real potential they are taken to Victoria or South Australia to race for the better prize money. New Zealand Provincial and Country Form New Zealand racing is in the doldrums. Their prize money had dried up and owners and trainers are leaving in their droves. Why race a horse in NZ for half the prize money that you can win in Australia. As in all walks of life, people will follow the best return on their investment. Racing takes a huge investment in dollar terms. With the Asian market opening right up to the NZ thoroughbred, the industry will be left with the horses that could not sell as the only horses left to race in that country. If they then show any promise whatsoever, they are quickly packed off to Australia or sold off to the International market. With this exodus, the ratings on NZ races has deteriorated accordingly. Even their highest Quality Handicap events do not measure up to those in Australia. By comparison to Australian states, NZ metropolitan open handicaps are below NSW and Victoria and marginally stronger than South Australia and Queensland. My Ratings Made Simple program has taken these class figures into consideration when you go to rate the New Zealand horse when they races in Australia. Because of the small size of New Zealand it becomes more difficult to sort out the differences in the above two. Refer New Zealand Form Apart from the major city class tracks like Avondale, Ellerslie, Riccarton, Te Rapa and Trentham you would nominate most others as Provincial. Some Provincial tracks would be: Hastings, Invercargill, Matamaata, Pukehohe, Rotorau, Tauranga, Te Aroha The rest could be designated as Country tracks. Often during major carnivals, the Quality Handicaps are equal to the city class events. Check the fields before classing them as Quality H’caps Prov. or Quality H’caps Country.

Time v Weight Handicapping

We have worked with both times and weight handicapping over the years. For 12 months we used to compare weight ratings with my time handicapping ratings. We would then combine the pricing on both. In other words if the time rating had horse at 2/1 and the weight handicapping had it at 3/1 I would then split the difference e.g. 5/2 etc. The effort involved in doing both by pencil, paper and calculator was far too great for the results received. Too often the time rating turned us off plenty of weight handicapping winners. I dropped it as time not well spent and concentrated on programming the weight handicapping process. Thus The Whip was born. There are far too many variables in time rating to be reliable. If all track surfaces were the same then you might be able to get a reliable guide. If all tracks were exactly the same distance and shape then that might help also. If someone could explain how you rate a Moonee Valley 1200m race with a Caulfield 1200m race it might help. The class can be exactly the same but at Caulfield they might run 2 seconds faster compared to their Moonee Valley performance. After stating all this above, we still record the times for each race run in our database. Every horse that finishes 1 length behind the winner is penalised a .2 of a second. In other words, Horse A, won in 1:10. Horse B, came second beaten 1 length then it’s time would be recorded as 1:10.2. Horse C, 1.5 lengths would be 1:10.3 etc. There could be some room for this time handicapping in races under 1400m. Races at and below this distance range are less reliable than races at 1600m as witnessed by our Race Statistics over the past 3.5 years.

Track Bias

The buzz phrase with many Australian commentators is “track bias”. What this means is simply that the layout or the track texture or condition of the individual track gives certain horses a bias for or against their particular running styles. It may be a track bias that favours front runners or alternatively those horses off the pace and coming home late. It might be Caulfield when the track is rain affected. Horses that run at the rear cannot get home fast enough to catch the front running brigade. They have suffered from “track bias”. Experienced race watchers look at the early races run at the track before they finalise their selections. There is little doubt that a bias does exist at times. The effects are particularly significant at tracks like Moonee Valley and the straight 1200m course at Flemington. With Moonee Valley Australians were introduced to a new racing surface. To suggest that all horses get an even run on this surface is ridiculous. I usually dismiss a strong run made by a horse at Moonee Valley when it’s previous form has not been up to the ratings it achieved at this track. This is a true horses for courses track. A tricky track to profit on as yet until further data is available through more races being run at the track. The straight course at Flemington is a shocker also. Horses have two sides in which to choose from. The grandstand side, or the normal inside track. Too often one of these sides is lengths faster than the other side. I treat each side of the track as a separate race entirely for my past race results. In other words, if a horse ran down the inside track and was beaten by 2 lengths by the horse who ran down the grandstand side.  I might not penalise the horse 3 kilograms as I would on a standard track layout. I would look at his or her past performances and the ratings of the other runners on his side. Then apply commonsense. Should my research on the ratings achieved by the outside brigade prove totally out of kilter with the inside brigade, that is when I recommend that you adopt my two race strategy. A word of warning with Flemington straight track betting, tread lightly and go only for the obvious overlay horses. Track Bias can work for you and against the unwary.


There are good trainers and there are very ordinary trainers. Your job as The Whip handicapper is to know the good ones and to give them a small bonus each time they have a starter in a race. The obvious area to look firstly is the strike rates. In other words a trainer who lands 1 winner every 6 times they have a starter is a trainer to take notice of when considering a bonus. Just as horses and jockeys who are consistent get a bonus, the trainer who is consistent also gets a bonus. I suggest that you include any bonus into the X-Factor column when doing the Rate the Race section. Simply add the bonus to any other factor that you have included in that column. Convert their strike rate for a 12 month period to a % figure. The 1 to 6 starters converts to a 16.66% strike rate. I have prepared a guide for you to consider when you would like to give a small bonus to a trainer and they are:

  • 25% and above -1 kg bonus
  • 20% to <25%- 0.8 kg
  • 15% to <20% – 0.5kg
  • 11% to <15% – 0.3kg
  • Below 11% – nil

Tips and traps when looking at a trainer’s bonus. Don’t go to the training premiership tables and give the winning premiership trainer the maximum 1 kilo bonus. Some premiership winning trainers have a woeful strike rate and in fact deserve no bonus whatsoever. The exceptions are Gai Waterhouse in Sydney and Lee Freedman in Melbourne. Both have excellent strike rates and generally do not overestimate the performance or class of the horses under their care. In other words they try and place their horses where they stand the best chance of winning. Isn’t that nice of them to help us out by doing their own homework.

Trainers Winning Formulas

“When you’re on a good thing stick to it” Trainers should and usually do know their horses backwards. They know within a week or two when it should reach peak fitness. They know how many runs it will take. The good ones can plan out a strategy so that the horse is at peak fitness for a particular race. It might be a quality handicap over 1600m. In the past their horse won after 2 conditioning runs and when stepped up to its ideal distance of 1600m. Logic states that if this worked for them last time, why would they change a winning formula? When looking for the horses BRR try and put yourself into the mind of their trainers. You have the past history of the horse in front of you. Look for patterns in the past and try and anticipate where the horse is now by comparison. Many big winners can come the way of handicappers who do not accept a previous run or two on face value and go on the horses and trainers past deeds.

Weight Handicapping

In a handicap sprint event for human beings, like the professional Stawell Gift in Australia, you find the best qualified athletes have to start behind the other runners in a staggered starting blocks. If we used weight in human handicapping events the fastest runners would all start together but wear knap sacks with lead weights to slow them down. They do not use staggered barrier stalls in horse racing so club handicappers use the next best thing, weight. In horse racing the standard weight figure to drop a horse’s performance back one length in performance is by adding 1.5 kilograms to a horse’s saddle. In The Whip’s weight ratings theory, we assume that the best racehorse ever to grace the planet is rated as the perfect 100 kilos. For the sake of this exercise let’s call this mythical horse PEGASUS. Every horse is rated below this magnificent thoroughbred. In a hypothetical match race, this horse might start in the highest quality handicap field ever assembled on Earth. This field might have a limit weight of 48 kilograms and under normal circumstances the race would be rated at about 85k. PEGASUS wins this race fully extended and at his Maximum Rating carrying 63 kilograms. The perfect race horse who will never grace this planet.

The story of PEGASUS continues: Let’s assume that you have a race quality rating of 85 kilograms. You would add the weight that PEGASUS carried over the limit weight ( 63k minus 48kg) being 15 kilograms onto the class quality rating of 85kg and you have the perfect 100kg rating. The second placed horse It carried 58 kilograms and finished 2 lengths behind PEGASUS, would rate this horse like this :- Class Quality 85kg plus weight over the limit ( 58kg minus 48kg) being 10kg and we now take off the 1 length beaten margin ( 1 X 1.5 kilo’s) = 1.5 kilograms. The second placed horses rating now is 85kg plus 10kg = 95kg minus beaten margin 1.5kg = 93.5kg same with the remainder you do the entire field this way and you have past ratings for all the horses. You use these past ratings to gauge their ability when competing in future races. The Whip has further assumed that the best Australian thoroughbred ever produced ran in this race and they handicapped him with 56 kilos. The horse finished 3rd beaten 2 lengths. The Australian horse would be rated this way (85kg plus 8kg minus (2 lengths x 1.5kg) or 3kg) = 90 kilograms. This theory is translated throughout the Australian weight based class system of racing. It is a theory that can be used in any country in the world providing that you are able to differentiate between the class strengths. In Australia they range from a theoretical super quality handicap rated at about 80kg to a lowly 2yo country maiden race rated about 38kg. All races in Australia fall within these parameters and are the basis of The Whip’s weight ratings.