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A conditions race is a horse race in which the individual horses will carry weights decided by certain conditions. In a handicap race, the horses will be weighted on the basis of past performance, with the intention being that the weights will help to make the race more even. In a conditions race, on the other hand, the weights a horse carries are decided purely on their age and sex, with no penalties being applied for previous success. Races of this kind are also sometimes known as weight-for-age races, and all of the Grade 1 championship races in the UK, such as the King George VI Chase and the Cheltenham Gold Cup, are conditions races.
Placing a bet on a conditions race, as opposed to a handicap race, is much more a question of reading the form of the horses involved, studying the odds being offered and deciding where the best value lies. This is because, without any weights to penalise them, the horses which have enjoyed the best results in the past are the most likely to finish at or near the front of their next race, and the odds being offered will reflect this fact. The skill in finding the best value when betting on conditions races lies in evaluating all of the other factors which might have a bearing on the result. These range from how soft or firm the going is to the recent record of the trainers and stables involved and the jockey who is riding the horse. The bookmakers will be aware of all of this as well, of course, so the odds in a conditions race are generally a reflection of the state of the field, allied to the need of the bookmakers to protect their position. The fact that the largest and most prestigious races on the calendar tend to be conditions races means that many first time or occasional bettors take part, and this can help to make the odds of a favourite, in particular, even shorter.