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Why A Handicap Mark Has Risen Unexpectedly

by Wayne Spink

Newcastle Racecourse

Newcastle Racecourse

Could someone please explain why Darwell Lion handicap mark has risen by 4 lbs from a mark of 81 t0 85 while Greatgadian handicap mark has remained unchanged at 92 after both ran in the 19.00 at Newcastle on 03/03/2024 even though Greatgadian finished a half length in front of Darwell Lion?

Answer: There are a couple of reasons why Darwell Lion's handicap mark might have risen by 4 lbs while Greatgadian's remained unchanged, even though Greatgadian finished ahead at Newcastle:

Performance relative to expectations: Handicappers consider not just finishing position, but also how a horse performs relative to its predicted ability.

If Darwell Lion ran closer to expectations than Greatgadian (who was expected to win based on its higher mark), Darwell Lion's mark might still go up to reflect its capability.

Racing Post commentary for Darwell Lion was “Midfield, some headway over 1f out, kept on but no impression inside final furlong (op 20/1 tchd 22/1)” and for Greatgadian was ”Midfield, lost position and dropped to rear over 2f out, not clear run over 1f out, good headway inside final furlong, went second towards finish, eyecatcher”

Weight carried: It's possible Darwell Lion carried less weight than Greatgadian in the race. Handicappers adjust marks based on the weight a horse carries. If Darwell Lion ran well while carrying less weight, it could be seen as an even stronger performance and justify a higher mark.

Darwell Lion was carrying 8-9 whereas Greatgadian carried 9-3

Remember, the handicapper's job is to create a balanced race where all horses have a roughly equal chance of winning. While finishing position is important, it's not the only factor considered.

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