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A maiden handicap is a race for horses that have not won a race with weights allocated based on past form. In a handicap race horses are allocated a weight to ensure an equal chance of winning. A horse must have run several times for its ability to be assessed and a weight allocated accordingly. Nursery races are handicaps for horses aged two but the runners do not have to be maidens and some will have already won a race as a two-year-old.
Flat races are either handicaps or non-handicaps. In the latter race, conditions determine the weight carried by each horse and there are allowances based on age and gender. In group races younger female horses will carry less weight than older male horses. In a handicap, horses carry different weights based on proven ability. A superior horse will carry a bigger weight to equalise its chances against slower horses.
Maiden mares are horses without a win that have not been covered by a stallion. There are no specific handicap races for maiden mares and both sexes compete in the same races. Weight allocation is not based on gender but ability shown in previous races, which will generally be maidens. The minimum distance for a maiden handicap is five furlongs and none are run over more than one mile. Horses aged two generally compete over distances in the range from five furlongs to one mile. These races are difficult to predict, so aren’t usually popular for sports betting.
A horse that has won a jumps race can still run in a flat maiden or flat maiden handicap, and flat race winners can run in national hunt maiden races.