How To Approach a 3m+ Handicap Chase?

An old article on my approach to 3m+ handicap chases (about time I read it again!)

In what is a timely dive into my ‘archives’ I have unearthed an article that I wrote for The Betting Insiders Club last December, 2015. I am sure they won’t mind me sharing it,and they certainly won’t if I say you can find out more about their fantastic club HERE>>> 🙂

(includes Dr Nick’s Big Race Tips plus other races he covers, monthly magazine with various articles in from a wide variety of sports,forum,micro angles etc)

(oh and if you like quality free ‘tips’ a pop up box does appear of you visit that page. One tip, from their stable of tipping services – Carl Nicholson/Racing Consultants/Dr Nick etc – is sent out for free most days and always worth a read, if that kind of thing is for you) 

With that said, this old article is below. Given it was written just before I hit my purple patch, i should probably re-read it a few times, and go back to the approach I set out.

Following this article I have added a few more updated thoughts. Your comments, esp on what else you would throw into the mix, are always welcome.




RACING TO PROFIT: The 3m+ Handicap Chase

In this article I want to look at handicap chases and specifically those over 3 miles or further. I will take a look at my own approach to analysing these races and in the next article will look at a few useful stats and micro systems.


Why the Handicap Chase?

Outside of the profitable micro-systems that I have developed on my blog in the last few months, my general betting has been a bit volatile in recent weeks. When suffering a bumpy ride it is often best to go back to basics and where you feel most comfortable. For me that is 3m+ handicap chases.

Having a ‘specialty’ or a single race type to focus on has many positives. Horse Racing is a complex sport at the best of times and the amount of racing can be overwhelming. By focussing on these race types I am able to give myself the best chance of success. It means that even on busy days there are only a handful of races to analyse. There is also the benefit of getting to know the horses and trainers.


So, if you don’t have a race type that you focus on, I would suggest finding one. My enjoyment of jumps racing is much greater now. I enjoy betting on and watching long distance handicap chases – so it makes sense that I spend more time on them than a 2m hurdle say. You may prefer to look at novice hurdles, 2m chases or become a National Hunt Flat specialist. Whatever it is I think your enjoyment and hopefully profitability would improve for having one area that you focus on more than the others.


I like focusing on these races for a few reasons. Firstly, stamina is vital and secondly, you have to jump. These races are a true test of a horse and there is no room to hide. You also get all sorts of horses in these races which I think makes it slightly easier to analyse – that doesn’t necessarily make it easier to profit from them, but I find it easier to draw up a shortlist of value bets than I do in other races.


In a 3m+ handicap chase you typically get a mixture of unexposed horses, ‘been there and done it horses’ and ‘been there and haven’t done it’ horses. When looking at a race I try and split the runners into these categories. Here we are looking at horses that have proved they can handle race conditions, proved that they definitely can’t handle race conditions, and those where there is not enough evidence – often the unexposed ones. With these you are making a judgement as to whether the odds available allow you to overlook any unknowns or uncertainties.


Of course this approach is similar for other race types, but in reality I want as few horses as possible that are open to improvement, and as many as possible that I can discount. At distances shorter than 3m there are generally more younger horses, still open to improvement. Just looking at all handicap chases since 2010-. Over distances from 2m3.5f-2m5f there have been 10,269 6 and 7 year olds run. In chases over 2m7.5f+ there have been 6,903 6 and 7 year olds run. The first sample is from 832 races, the latter from 880.


That is a rather crude analysis but in general you can see my point. There are many more younger horses running at the shorter trips who are potentially open to improvement. Horses that may be stepping up in trip or that may have strengthened further during their summer break etc. I want as few unknowns as possible. Logically over shorter distances you can get away with fewer errors as well given you are jumping fewer fences. If a horse has the odd issue with their jumping there are not many places to hide over 3m+ trips. Albeit if they are a poor jumper you want to steer clear whatever the race conditions.



What Am I Looking For – The Analysis

In general the higher the class the better. Unless a micro system I try and avoid C5 Handicap chases. These are generally poor animals who don’t win very often and whose performance can very much depend on their mood. Often there are results in these races that I struggle to understand. There is a reason that they are at the basement level over fences and for me these races are best avoided. Of course there can be the odd unexposed horse that is overpriced but in general these races are full of inconsistent types.

As I touched on earlier, when looking at handicap chase I want to split the runners into three categories.

  1. The ‘Unexposed Horses’ that could be open to improvement. Often these will be doing something different – like stepping up in trip – and you have to judge whether the price allows you to take the chance that they will relish it. There are also those that have had a handful of chase runs, that may have won LTO in similar race conditions, and that can defy any new mark. When going through a race if there are a lot of runners in this category it could be one to sit out – unless there are other ‘non horse based’ factors that ensure you can discount a few – recent trainer form, or trainer form at the track say. If a horse is doing something different and they haven’t had many runs, what they have done in the past can be irrelevant, making some form analysis a bit pointless. Those chasers that have had 12+ chase runs can also still be open to improvement as well, especially if 7 or 8 given that horses can develop at different rates. I prefer those horses I back to have had some experience of the race conditions and will happily take on short priced, unexposed ‘talking horses’.
  2. The ‘Been There and Done It Horses’ these types have a bullet proof profile against race conditions and usually tick every box. These are the ones that you are sure will run their race. They are generally exposed or at the very least have a few chase runs under their belt. You have to judge whether they are handicapped to win. With these we are hoping that a repeat of a past performance will be good enough. Clearly these types are open to attack from the group above.
  3. The ‘Been There and Haven’t Done It Horses’ These types have conclusively proved that they don’t handle race conditions. I usually home in on the going, distance and class to start with. If a horse is 0/10, 0 places in C3 handicap chases, and this is a C3 handicap chase – I can confidently put a line through them. You do need to check these types have ran in their ideal conditions in this class, but generally they are safe to ignore. The same with distance. There are a few you will find that have form up to 2m6f for example, but beyond that may struggle. You want a good sample to be sure – 0/5, 0 places over 24f+ would give me confidence that they may struggle for stamina.


Which ‘Profile’ Factors Do I Look For’? Step By Step Guide.

As I have discusses previously I use Horse Race Base and Geegeez Gold as my main tools for every horse/horse race that I look at.

[As an aside, HRB has some decent ratings and their Top 3 rated win nearly 55% of all handicap chases between them. You could do a lot worse than focussing in on those three horses in each race as a starting point]

Step 1

Firstly I will go through each horse in race-card order and split them into the three categories above with some notes. Initially I am using the profiler tool in HRB. Firstly I look at their form in all handicaps, looking across track ,going, distance, race quality/class, number of runners, days since run, course direction and their official rating. To a lesser extent I will look at their record with today’s jockey, the odds and what price they usually win at (you can find some that never go in or place when over certain odds), record during the month/this time of year, the ‘surface’ (flat through to very undulating).

I will then look at their profile against all of the above factors in handicap chases, including any course and distance form.

All the time I am asking if they have proved themselves in conditions, if they have proved they cannot handle them or if they are unexposed and may have yet to run in certain conditions.

Ideally there will be numerous ‘been there and haven’t done it’ horses that I can confidently rule out.

With the unexposed horses I personally don’t like many unknowns. If a horse has yet to win a chase I would want to avoid them. I would want some evidence that they will stay the trip and I would want to check their jumping.

Weight/Ratings – While I pay attention to weight and OR I don’t live and die by them and am not a ‘weights & measures’ punter. Clearly with more exposed horses you can find some that never win above a certain mark and that should be noted. Clearly with progressive horses a rise in the ratings can be discounted – my view is that they haven’t proved they can’t handle this rise and if I like the odds I won’t be automatically put off (if a horses has been risen 8lbs say). When it gets to 10/12lb+ rise then I am more cautious. The actual weight on a horses back can be more important, especially if a horse physically struggles to carry the weight. They may be able to win off the same rating with a lighter weight for example. Denman proved that is you are a big horse, and have class, weight can be irrelevant.  (Editors Note: NATIVE RIVER!)


Step 2

At this point I have a good feel for the race, which horse is suited to race conditions, which isn’t and which ones are the unexposed dangers.

At this point I will have a look at the odds , note them down next to the horse’s name, and get a feel for anything that I think may be over-priced.


Step 3

At this point I want to consider other factors. I start of by looking at trainer form, both recent and at the track. Track form can be deceptive and it is good to get a grip on how a trainer’s handicap runners perform at the track. There are a lot of small yards out there so caution is advised with some trainer form stats. At this time of year there are still horses returning after a break. If I can’t see that the horse has a proven record after a break I will check the trainer’s record – but that can be misleading. I believe most trainers now, given modern methods and facilities, can get horses fit enough at home if they wish to. It can be hard to tell if you are not track side, and even then it can be tricky! Thankfully as the season progresses there are fewer of these types running.

I will check jockey form as well, especially their track record and their record for the trainer. This is just additional information.


Step 4

Next I will flick through the various other tools within the Geegeez Racecards. This includes looking at the ‘horses form tab’, which includes a ‘Then What’ function. With one glance I can see how many winners and placed horses have come out of a horse’s recent runs. I can interrogate those results further if I wish.

This step also includes a consideration of the pace set up and how the race will be run. Does the race have a lone front runner that could stay there? Is there likely to be a lot of pace where the best place may be just behind the leaders?

In general I don’t like backing horses held up right out the back. These runners need a lot to go right. They need the pace to be strong and the horses in front to come back to them. They also need a lot of luck in running and are susceptible to being brought down or being inconvenienced by fallers. Some hold up horses could just be the best and fastest horses in the race – and if so, how the race is run may not matter so much. But, if the leaders keep going the same pace in front, the hold up horse will have to quicken – but still have fences to jump. This can put pressure on the jumping and can lead to errors.

Personally I like my fancy to be in the front third somewhere either out of danger leading all the way or positioned just off the pace, ready to pounce.


Step 5

At this point I will have a good idea as to which horse I wish to back, if any. As always the aim of the game is to try and back a horse you think is over-priced.

The final consideration is jumping. I will just check that a horse is a decent jumper – which a winning record over fences would indicate. A knowledge of the tracks and how stiff the fences are can be useful. Some horses may appear a decent jumper at a track with ‘easy’ fences but then struggle at a track with ‘stiffer’ fences. I have listed the various tracks by ‘fence type’ below, for your future reference. I will try and watch a few of the horses recent runs that I am interested in, and go through the in-running comments to see if there were any unlucky horses etc. That is also a benefit of trying to watch as many 3m+ chases as you can (or whatever race type you prefer) – you can look at a horse’s name and sometimes picture their last run etc.



All that is left is to pull all of that together and decide how I want to play the race – which of course is easier said than done!

You may have a different approach – but whatever it is I like having a set structure and a kind of checklist which helps ensure I don’t miss anything out. I do believe that the more work you put into your analysis, the more luck you get.

In the next article I will expand on 3m+ handicap chases by having a look at some stats and micro angles that you may find useful moving forward.


TRACKS BY FENCE TYPE (according to Horse Race Base)

Very Stiff

Aintree (Grand National); Cheltenham; Haydock


Aintree; Ascot; Cartmel; Chepstow; Fairyhouse; Fakenham; Fontwell; Hereford; Huntingdon; Kempton; Ludlow; Musselburgh; Newbury; Newcastle; Sandown; Southwell; Wetherby; Wincanton


Ayr; Ballinrobe; Bangor; Clonmel; Cork; Doncaster; Down Royal; Downpatrick; Exeter; Ffos Las; Galway; Gowran Park; Kelso; Kilbeggan; Killarney; Leicester; Leopardstown; Limerick; Lingfield; Listowel; Naas; Navan; Newton Abbot; Perth; Plumpton; Punchestown; Roscommon; Sligo; Stratford; Taunton; Thurles; Tipperary; Towcester; Tralee; Tramore; Uttoxeter; Wexford; Windsor; Worcester.


Carlisle; Catterick; Hexham; Market Raisen; Sedgefield; Warwick


Until the next time,




Updated Thoughts Dec 2016

  • Not too much to add but I suppose in terms of looking at a horse’s recent form, especially if they didn’t run well- asking why that may have been and what they are doing differently this time… more rest between runs, did they have a few runs close together,have they taken a few runs to peak, say 3 (Gonalston Cloud and Barton Gift would be examples, both seemingly peaking on 3rd run this season – Barton Gift had showed a similar pattern year before,that was noted pre race,so can be found. Gonalston- I noted at Haydock in the video how he looked really fat,so suppose not a shock he ran his best race after two runs to get him sharp. next time) , were they outclassed LTO, is the ground different this time, the distance (too far, to short LTO, are they moving up/down in trip), a headgear change (removed/added etc), tongue tie, change of jockey, trainer now in form (was ‘cold’ when last ran), will they come on for last run, change of track (flat to stiff finish,RHvsLH) Note what they are doing differently, if anything. And if doing nothing differently, why should they improve for last run. 


I think all of that lot covers my existing thought process. I suppose it seems a lot but the more you do it the faster you get. But, I probably need to go back to basics and apply more thoroughly those notes above. 






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