Is Horse Racing Fixed?

Horse racing is so competitive it’s crazy to think it’s fixed. Some unscrupulous types have tried to fix races, with a few owners, trainers, and jockeys all found to be in cahoots in trying to manipulate results to try and make a quick buck. But just like in most walks of life, these people are the minority rather than the majority.

What is true about horse racing is that not every horse in every race will have an equal chance of winning, and understanding the reasons why can be enlightening if you’ve not considered them before.


Just like humans, horses aren’t all born equal. Trainers are aware of this and one of the biggest skills they must possess is trying to work out how good a horse is or could be before they run it. If they think a horse is top-class, they will normally start it off with a couple of runs in easy novice or maiden races to gain experience and then campaign it in all the top races, as these offer the chance to win the most prize money.

Horses that win the best races can also go on to enjoy lucrative breeding careers when they retire from racing. These are the types of horses that all trainers would like to have in their stable, but only a small percentage of horses make it to the top.

Most stables are filled with average horses and many of these will also start off in maidens or novice races before moving on to handicaps. They will have little chance of winning their first few races against the potential top-class horses off level-weights but must normally run three times before they are given a handicap mark.

Once they have been given a handicap mark, horses can then run in handicap races where they will receive weight off higher-rated horses and concede weight to lower-rated horses.

Getting A Good Handicap Mark

When a trainer thinks a horse’s future is in handicaps, it is their job to try and get them an initial handicap mark from which they will be able to win a race or two before the handicapper reassesses them.

This practice is often why some people ask is horse racing fixed? But in truth, there are many ways to get horses well-handicapped that have become accepted practices in horse racing.

Most horses run in novice races or maidens simply because they need to, and many horses may start their careers running over distances short of the ones that will be their optimum later in their careers. Trainers will tell you that horses need to learn to race at speed in a competitive environment and, while this is true, it’s also a valid excuse for a horse being un-competitive in races before being given a handicap mark.

You’ll often see horses running in a handicap for the first time do so over a longer trip than they have run over before. This can be a good source of finding winners, especially when a horse’s breeding suggests it should be suited by running over the new distance.

Some trainers really milk this scenario. For example, they may run a horse three times over six-furlongs to get it well enough handicapped to win over a mile. However, this horse may ideally want 10 or 12 furlongs, and may continue to improve as he’s stepped up in trip, allowing him to notch-up a sequence of handicap wins.

Building-Up To A Target

Another scenario to consider is trainers often have one big target in mind for a horse, and their whole season may be geared at peaking for this one big day. This will often be a race at a big festival or a handicap that offers a big prize. However, you must remember that some horses only have the ability to win a race worth £5,000. Either way, trying to work out why a trainer or a horse’s connections will target a specific race can be another angle to exploit.

Again, horses showing improved form is another reason why people ask is horse racing fixed. But a horse peaking for a target is no different from a human athlete that tries to make sure he’s at his best for the Olympic Games.

In this scenario, trainers will normally tell you that a horse needs a run or two to reach peak fitness, but the truth is there simply building towards a bigger target.

Optimum Conditions

One of the most difficult aspects of making a profit from horse racing is to recognise a horse’s optimum conditions. These may be a combination of distance, ground, draw, weight carried, the pace of a race, type of course, jockey booking, trainer form, etc. Having all of these at once can be a reason for a horse to show improved form. Equally, not having some of these in their favour can be an excuse for a poor performance.

The Right Class

As mentioned earlier, top-class horses tend to run in top-class races, but there are many different types of classes in horse racing. These bands are often defined by ratings, for example, a handicap may be limited to horses rated between 70 and 80.

While some horses may continue to improve and take rises in class in their stride, many horses struggle when asked to race against better horses that simply run faster. However, if the handicapper has raised their rating for winning a race from, for example, 68 to 74, they will have no choice but to race in a higher class.

Of course, the handicapper can also reduce a horse’s rating for performing poorly, but a horse may have to run poorly several times in a higher grade before the handicapper returns his rating to a level where he can drop back down in class and be competitive.

Trainers understand this, and that’s why many horses that aren’t well-handicapped will run in races they can’t win. When their rating drops to a mark they can win off, a trainer is likely to try and exploit it by dropping his horse back down in class. This also often raises the question of is horse racing fixed, but it’s just the way the system works.

So, Is Horse Racing Fixed?

After reading this article, if you think the answer to is horse racing fixed is yes, then betting on horse racing isn’t for you. However, if you’re now looking at horse racing and realising the accepted practices that trainers undertake to win races, you’ll realise there are plenty of angles to exploit as a punter.

Of course, it takes a lot of time to work out all these angles. But don’t worry if you don’t have that time, as can follow the advice of provenly profitable horse racing tipsters that have made it their life’s work to beat the bookies.

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