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Horses are assigned a weight to be carried in each race. In handicaps the weight allocation is based on past form and the weights are intended to give each horse an equal chance of winning the race. In some non-handicaps horses carry the same weight, such as the Classics on the flat and championship races over jumps.
There are weight allowances for young and female horses and wins in previous Group races are penalised with more weight. When level weights apply the best horse on the day wins because there have been no weight adjustments and each horse runs on merit.
The favourite for a level weights race is usually a shorter price than the favourite for a handicap. Jockey allowances also take weight off a horse but jockeys that get allowances are generally inexperienced and have not won many races.
The best races with most prize money attract the best horses and the form is reliable, and the five British Classics and the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Champion Hurdle over jumps are fundamentally level weights races.
However, even in the biggest Grade and Group 1 races there are allowances based on age and gender. The weight-for-age scale has been operating for many years and allowances based on gender are well established. Races for colts or fillies and mares that are restricted to horses of a certain age are run at level weights.
In theory fillies can run in the Derby but it is very rare so all the runners carry nine stone. Fillies in the Oaks also race off level weights. Mares get a seven pounds allowance in the Champion Hurdle but few female horses run in the Cheltenham Gold cup.
The Grand National is a handicap and not a level weights race. Cup races on the flat have allowances in the conditions but most of these races are run with each horse carrying the same weight.