Reading Horse Racing Form
Bookmakers & Betting
Systems & Strategies
Reading Horse Racing Form
The best way for the inexperienced gambler to improve their chances of winning is to be sure that they understand the way that the form for a race is being displayed in their newspaper or racecard.
We will run through the terminology that you may see in the various publications so that you are fully prepared to maximise profits!
Where Can I find Racing Form?
Some sites will highlight the basic information such as the names of the horses that are due to run at a meeting and a guide to the possible prices that may be on offer of the horses.
For detailed information, free sites such as the Racing Post or Sporting Life should be good enough. As you become more advanced there are various other websites on the internet that can provide further information and ratings.
What Information is Available in Racing Form?
Most form guides will have the races at each meeting clearly separated and timed so you can see where each starts and ends. Nearly all will split the information on each horse into lines and display them something like this:
411-21 Red Rum Ginger McCain 12-0 T Stack
This line of information tells you;
411-21 These are the horse's finishing positions on its last five runs. The - indicates the end of a calendar year.
Red Rum This is the horse's name
Ginger McCain This is the name of the person who trains the horse
12-0 This is the weight the horse is due to carry in this race. This will always be displayed in the imperial weights format in the UK.
T Stack This is the name of the jockey due to take the ride on this horse
Other pieces of information will be available such as
How Do I Read Horse Racing Form?
The best way to pick a winner is to make a judgment on each horse's chances based on your analysis of their form. This may sound complicated but after breaking down the various pieces of information it's not as difficult as some people would have us believe!
Form students will consider lots of factors before placing their bet and they take some or all of the following into consideration.
Understanding Racing Form - Going
Some horses can show a marked preference for running on a particular ground or 'going'. For example, Hot Weld, winner of the 2007 Scottish National and Betfred Gold Cup has shown his best winning form on ground that is 'good' or 'good to firm'. This predominantly means on a track where there has been little recent rain. Other horses will run to their best form if the going description is described as 'soft' or even 'heavy'.
A quick way to check your selection's preference is to look under the section that lists the horses' previous form and see what ground the horse has won on or run well on.
Racing Form Explained - Distance
One of the most important elements to consider is if your selection will be suited by the distance the race is sue to be run over. Races on the flat and over jumps are run over a wide variety of distances and some horses will be suited to a short 'sprint' where the emphasis will be on speed whilst other horses will prefer much longer races where stamina is the key.
Many horses will find a distance that suits them and stick to running only in races run around that trip. When starting out with analysing form it's probably a good idea to concentrate on those horses that have proven form over the distance of the race.
As you gain more experience you can begin to make judgments about horses who are running over new distances. At this point, you can start looking at a horse's pedigrees for clues as to if a horse will be suited by a major change in the distance of race they are running in.
Horse Racing Form - Class
Horses tend to be creatures of habit and, if staying fit, can maintain high levels of consistency. It's always worth checking to see if a horse has run well in certain types of races. For example, horses may perform well in handicaps but find it difficult to step up to listed or group class.
Understanding Form - Horses For Courses
Some horses will only show their best form when running at certain tracks. The idiosyncrasies of tracks like Chester or Fakenham can really suit some horses and it's common for some horse to become 'course specialists'. So always check at what tracks your selection has previously run well at.
What Do The Abbreviations in Horse Racing Form Mean?
Many letters are used to represent different goings on in previous races. For a full list of these abbreviations and other horse racing terms check out the lesson on
Horse Racing Terms and Abbreviations.
How To See More Than Just The Form
Once you become more familiar with horse racing form you'll soon be able to spot how horses are going to improve on the form they've already shown, making them a good bet. There is a thread on the OLBG Forum giving Pointers On How To Spot A Horse That Will Improve From One Run To Another and it is well worth a read.