Top Weights and Tight Tracks: A Winning Combination?

There is some chatter online which suggests that backing top weighted horses on so-called tight tracks can lead to long-term profit. This system focuses on National Hunt races that are less than 3 miles long and Flat or AW races between 6.5f and 1m 3f. It is an interesting theory borne out of the fact that the extra weight is significantly negated on these tight tracks.


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As the horses are running around bends almost continuously, they are never exposed to lengthy straights where the added weight traditionally takes effect. Examples of tracks to avoid include the Newmarket Rowley Mile (10 furlongs straight) and July (8f straight) courses, Redcar (8f straight), Salisbury (8f straight) and Newcastle (also 8f straight).

In this article, I will focus on the following courses to see if top weighted horses actually perform well on tight tracks.

National Hunt

  • Bangor
  • Fontwell
  • Newton Abbot

Flat

  • Brighton
  • Chester
  • Warwick

All-Weather

  • Chelmsford City
  • Kempton
  • Wolverhampton

Can You Profit or is it a Myth?

First of all, the following data comes from the beginning of 2014. It is best to start by analysing the overall performance of top weights in handicap races across the three codes before narrowing our focus to the nine tracks above.

Race CodeBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
National Hunt9,0151,46420.84%-8.14%
Flat10,1251,58215.62%-7.78%
All-Weather5,8761,00517.1%-5.94%

As you know, top weighted horses in handicap races are deemed to be the best horses in the race. The weighting system ensures that in theory, each race begins on a level playing field. Therefore, it is no surprise to find that blindly backing top weighted horses does little for your bank balance.

Now, let’s check out the performance of top weighted tracks using our featured racecourses:

Race CodeBetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
National Hunt (Tight)87916819.11%9.96%
Flat (Tight)77814618.77%1.46%
All-Weather (Tight)3,53558816.63%-10.86%

AW top weighted horses fare even worse on tight tracks than normal! Indeed, you would earn a profit of 2.87% from laying them! Kempton is the worst track with a loss of 15.32% albeit a profit of 7.53% if you lay top weighted horses there.

You would have enjoyed a small profit on Flat courses. In fact, there were only 17 races at Warwick during the timeframe and the performance of top weights at Chester is awful with a loss of 16% but a profit of 8.28% if you lay these horses. Oddly enough, after four straight years of losses, 2018 has been the year of the top weight at Chester with a 30%-win rate so far!

In reality, Brighton is the course to focus on because it provides a profit of 10.59% although it is a mixed bag with three years of profit and two years of loss.

National Hunt Focus

National Hunt is by far the best option because you would have earned a profit of almost 10% from backing top weights at our three tight tracks, including profit in four of the last five years. When I dug a little deeper, I was astounded to find that backing all top weights at Bangor would result in a loss of 26%! Clearly, at least one of our other two tracks is a potential goldmine.

Fontwell certainly is with a win rate of over 22% and a profit of 19% although you would have experienced losses in 2015 and 2017. To date, 2018 is proving to be a great year with a profit of over 79% so keep your eyes peeled for top weights at Fontwell!

The ROI is even higher at Newton Abbot at 23.31% although the win rate is rather low at 18.69%. You would expect the profit to be inconsistent, but only 2018 has seen losses in the last five years.

Further research revealed a profit of 12.74% at Fakenham, 12.9% at Hereford (from only 54 races in five years), and 26.04% at Southwell (NH course). This is significant as all three are considered as ‘tight’ National Hunt tracks. When you combine those three with Fontwell and Newton Abbot, you get the following data:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
1,21425521%20.89%

What’s significant here is that you will enjoy profit in all of the last five years. Aside from 2016 where the profit was just 4%, it has been 16%+ in the other four years.

By now, it is apparent that the notion of top weighted horses performing well at tight tracks is NOT a myth. Obviously, it is only applicable to certain courses, but even so, it is an exciting development. If you remember, the rule related to races over specific distances. When I focused on 2-3-mile National Hunt races, there was a slight uptick:

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
91819921.68%23.39%

The most significant change is that 2016 now becomes a loss of 8%. However, you would have enjoyed a minimum profit of 24% in each of the other four years.

What’s fascinating is what happens when you look at non-favourites.

BetsWinsStrike RateROI (BF)
69311516.59%30.07%

The strike rate doesn’t fall nearly as much as you would think and the profit increases to 30%. Once again, 2016 experiences a loss but the minimum profit is 31% for the other four years.

Finally, let’s go back to Brighton on the Flat. If you remember, the theory was that top weighted horses did well over a distance range of 6.5f to 10f. In reality, they perform best in races that are 11f and over with a profit of 76%. Alas, there have only been 59 such races at Brighton since the beginning of 2014.

Final Thoughts on Top Weights & Tight Tracks

My analysis revealed that you are better off avoiding All-Weather tracks unless you want to lay top weighted horses. It is the same story for Flat races barring those that take place at Brighton.

The real money is made by focusing on National Hunt races at the following tight tracks:

  • Fakenham
  • Fontwell
  • Hereford
  • Newton Abbot
  • Southwell

One of the best things about these racecourses is that the profit is relatively consistent. For whatever reason, 2016 was a black mark but otherwise, backing top weights on these courses is a steady bank builder. It is even better when you avoid favourites because you benefit from better odds and a decent strike rate.

Narrow things down a little further by focusing on 2-3-mile races only. Even with this advanced set of criteria, there are 200 or so opportunities a year. A final tip is to eliminate horses at SP odds of 25/1 or more as there has only been one such winner in 44 attempts.