Jargon Buster: Weight allowance and other key terms explained

The weight allowance scheme for female riders in France means that in all races, bar Listed and Pattern Races, (see glossary below) horses ridden by females will carry 2kg (roughly 4lbs) less in the saddle than would be the case if that same horse were to be ridden by a male jockey.

Horses are allocated a specific weight for a race, but that racing weight is not the same as the weight of the jockey. Say for instance a horse is allocated a weight of 9 stone for a race, and the jockey weighs 8 stone 4 pounds. 10 pounds of lead will be placed in the weight cloth (see below) to make it up to the horse’s racing weight of 9 stone.

So two horses are in a race in France and have both been allocated a racing weight of nine stone. One horse will be ridden by a female jockey, and the other will be ridden by a male jockey. The horse with the female jockey on board will now race off a weight of 8 stone 10, 4 pound less than the horse with the male jockey on board, because the female jockey has a 4 pound weight allowance, purely because she is female.

This initiative was introduced by France Galop, the governing body of French Racing, to try and increase opportunities for female riders.

It is now an advantage for a trainer to use a female jockey on their horse, as their horse will carry 4 pound less than what it would carry if a male jockey was on board, making it slightly easier for the horse and increasing its chances of winning.


As if that wasn’t confusing enough, France Galop have now proposed changes to the weight allowance scheme that are set to be introduced in March 2018.

The most significant change is a reduction in the weight allowance female riders are permitted. In flat races, female riders will now have a 1.5kg weight allowance, as opposed to the 2kg weight allowance they had previously.

This change will be introduced in response to the large increase in the number of winners ridden by females, more information on which can be found here.

The full 2kg allowance will remain for female riders competing in races over jumps.

France Galop have opted to reduce the weight allowance for female flat jockeys. Photo Credit: France Galop
Below is a glossary of key racing terms mentioned throughout the Battle for the Saddle project.


Inexperienced riders (apprentices, conditionals and amateurs) are allowed a weight concession to compensate for their lack of experience against their colleagues. The ‘allowance’ is usually 3lb, 5lb or 7lb, with it decreasing as the young jockey rides more winners. Once a jockey reaches a certain number of winners, they will lose their claim and will officially become a professional jockey.


A non-professional jockey who does not receive a fee for riding in a race, denoted on the racecard by the prefix Mr, Mrs, Miss, Captain etc. Some races are restricted to amateurs-only.


A trainee Flat jockey connected to the stable of a licensed trainer. Apprentices have a weight allowance when they ride in races against professional jockeys and can compete for the annual Apprentice title, given to the winner of the most races during the season.

Conditional jockey

A Jump jockey, under 26, who receives a weight allowance for inexperience until he has ridden a certain number of winners. A conditional jockey is licensed to a specific trainer. Some races are restricted to conditionals-only.

Claimer (jockey)

An apprentice Flat jockey.

Flat racing

Racing without jumps. The centrepiece of the Flat racing season is the Turf season, which runs from late March to early November. Races are run over a minimum distance of 5f up to a maximum of 2m6f. However, the birth of All-Weather racing in 1989, has allowed Flat racing to continue year-round, and the official Flat racing season now runs for a calendar year to include those Flat races run on all-weather surfaces.

Group / Graded races

These races form the upper tier of the racing structure, with Group/Grade 1 the most important, followed by Group/Grade 2 and Group/Grade 3. Group races are run on the Flat; Graded races are run over jumps (the most important Flat races in the United Statesare also Graded).

Group 1 (Flat) / Grade 1 (jumps)

The highest category of race. The Classic Flat races in Britain, as well as other historic races such as the Gold Cup at Royal Ascot, are Group 1. The major championship races over jumps, such as the Cheltenham Gold Cup, are Grade 1.

Level weights

When all horses are carrying the same weight. Major championship races, such as the Derby on the Flat or the Cheltenham Gold Cup over jumps, are run at level weights. There are still some allowances for age and sex (e.g. mares receive a 5lb allowance from male horses in the Cheltenham Gold Cup).

Listed Race

A class of race just below a Group or Graded quality.

National Hunt Racing

Races run over distances between 2 miles and 4 1/2 miles, where horses usually jump either hurdles or fences (races known as steeplechases). There is also a category of National Hunt races known as National Hunt flat races, which are run under National Hunt rules, but where no obstacles are jumped.


The grading system for the most important races, introduced on the Flat in 1971 and later for jumps racing. The top races on the Flat are Group 1, followed by Group 2 and Group 3 (the next highest category is Listed, which, while not technically part of the Pattern, combine with Group races under the heading of black-type races). The jumps Pattern has a similar structure, except that the races are termed Grade 1/2/3, rather than Group 1/2/3.

Point-to-Point Racing

Steeplechases for Amateur riders that are not classified under the Rules of Racing.


The person responsible for looking after a horse and preparing it to race. A trainer must hold a license or permit to be entitled to train.

Under Rules

Any race that is run on a registered racecourse, abides by the rules of racing, and that isn’t a point-to-point race.


Lead placed in a weight cloth. When these weights are added to the jockey’s weight and other equipment, the total weight should equal the weight allotted to the jockey’s horse in a race.

Weight cloth

A cloth with pockets for lead weights placed under the saddle to ensure that a horse carries its allotted weight.

Weighing in/out

Each jockey (wearing his racing kit and carrying his saddle) must stand on official weighing scales before and after the race, so that the Clerk of the Scales can check that the jockey is carrying the correct weight allotted to his horse. If a jockey is above the allotted weight before the race, his horse can still compete but must carry overweight. When the weights carried by the winner and placed horses have been verified after the race, there will be an announcement that they have ‘weighed in’. This confirms the race result and at this point bookmakers will pay out on successful bets.

Weighing Room

A term used to describe all jockeys – “members of the weighing room” = Jockeys.


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