The Ultimate Guide to Studying Horse Racing Form

Lee Jackson by Lee Jackson | Published: July 13, 2019

Horse racing form explained

The form is everything when it comes to horse racing. It is a record of a horse’s previous performances in races. Punters pore over statistics to try and spot a horse that is currently in form. A horse in form is a horse that has been running well and has been picking up or at least challenging for wins.

But it goes deeper than that because certain horses tend to be stronger at certain courses and over certain distances. They are even stronger when they have a certain jockey in the saddle. It is factors like that which determines form. From a betting perspective, this is important because it can help a punter to make stronger picks in a race instead of basically just have a shot in the dark.

The point of betting is to try and make some profit, so the more that you understand horse racing form, the more you are doing yourself a favour of being able to potentially earn a profit. Is horse racing form difficult to understand? No. It is just about familiarizing yourself with it.

How to study and understand the horse racing form?

Here is a snapshot from a race card at Bet365. Just from this one screen, there are some vital bits of information available for horse racing form which can help you paint a picture for yourself.

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Let’s break it down by taking a look at what type of race this is for starters.

1) In the green bar at the top of a racecard there is the basic information about the race itself. Most of this is self explanatory but let’s extrapolate the info:

a) Race 4 = The 4th race of the day at this meeting on this day

b) 19:35 = The time of race

c) 5h 0m to post – When all the runners have to be at the start ready to go

d) E/W 1/4 1-2 – This tells you the each way odds are at 1/4 and that it applies to only first and second finishers

e) 5f 16y Flat – The length of the race and what type of race, in this case a flat race

f) Good to Firm – The condition of the ground

2) So already there is a lot of information there that can be used. If you immediately spot that your fancied horse is better on quicker ground for example, or that this is a slightly longer race than he is used to, that may influence your betting decision.

In the second section of the form, it is all about the horse and what is going on with the runner. Again there is plenty of information which is being presented here. Let’s go through step by step and see what information is being displayed about them.

1) 1 (2) – There are two numbers here. The first one is what number the horse will be carrying in the race for identification purposes. The number in brackets is what position from the starting stall that they will going from, so in this case horse number one is starting from the second stall.

2) Silks – The picture of the jockey’s shirt and cap is just what they will be wearing in the race.

3) Names – Dandy Dancer is the name of the horse, while R Hughes is the trainer and George Rooke is the jockey. Trainer/Jockey partnerships are a big thing in racing and something that punters look for.

4) Form Last Run – 6 is the position in which Dandy Dancer finished in his last race. So while that gives a position, note that it says nothing about what type of race or what length, grade or conditions it was ran under.

5) Weight/Age – A big factor in horse racing form. 9-5 shows that Dandy Dancer is 9 st 5 lbs. He is a two year old.

6) Previous Odds – If there has been a move in the market, then it will be shown in this column. If he was at a bigger earlier price of 50/1 for example, it would be listed there.

7) Current Odds – This is the price at which the horse can currently be backed.

If you are wanting more information to piece together the puzzle of horse racing form, then you can click the info button beside the given horse on the Bet365 racecard and you will see this: it is where you can see a little more detail about their most recent run and grab a little bit of expert advice from the Racing Post at the same time.

1) 27 Jun 19 – 6f Newcastle – Class 4 – 6th 6 Ran: There is a lot of information here about the last race. It displays the date and that it was a race over 6 furlongs at Newcastle. It was a Class 4 race containing six runners, of which Dandy Dancer was dead last.

2) Last Run – This shows that he was 40/1 in that Newcastle race and gives a brief description of his effort. The notable thing was that he lacked finishing speed.

3) Spotlight – This is horse racing form gold from the Racing Post. It will dig a little deeper and throw out there a little more info about the horse, jockey and trainer.

There is a lot of information to put together there, but it is all important stuff. It may be a lot to absorb for a beginner, but once you get more and more acquainted with race cards, the process of formulating a strong pick will get quicker. In the case above with Dandy Dancer we can quickly assess a few things:

a) His current race is a little shorter than his last effort where he was outpaced over the final furlong. A shorter race may suit him.

b) Judging by Spotlight’s form with a novice jockey in the saddle, he’s not likely to play a competitive part in his current race.

c) The trainer has a poor record with two year old horses

Summary: Dandy Dancer doesn’t look to be a strong pick.

Quick Race Overview

One more thing that you can do with a racecard at Bet365 is take a look at their race overview. This will give a quick oversight about some of the key points about the race. It is information that you can use in conjunction with the other details that you can pull from the race card to form an opinion.

Quick glance form – how to read

One more thing to cover from this Bet365 horse racing form, the race covered was just a basic novices race so there was next to no form from previous races for the runner. When you look at other races involving more experienced horses you will see extended form details.

Above you can see that the information from Captain Dan’s recent races. Highlighted in the circle is brief details of his form, which reads 41-207. What does that mean? It is a chronological list of finishes that he has had in his last six runs, reading from left to right, the most recent race furthest right. So knowing that you can see immediately he was 7th in his last race. Listed beneath that is the fuller details of his most recent runs including course, distance and grading.

You can see in Captain Dan’s form that there is a – and 0 and obviously he didn’t finish in a minus position or in zero place. A dash means a gap between seasons. So his win came at the end of one season and his second place finish was his first race of a new season. A zero means that he didn’t get into the top nine places at a race.

Here is a breakdown of the numbers, characters and symbols you will see in form:

Number 1 – 9 Finishing positions one through nine
Number 0 Horse didn’t finish in the top nine
– Symbol Gap between seasons
/ Symbol A gap between races bigger than 1 season
P or PU The horse pulled up
F Faller
R Refused to race
BD Brought down by another runner
U or UR Unseated the rider

Other Horse Racing Form

Now we are going to swing over to Betfair for a look at their racecard because it shows further information regarding horse form. A lot of the information has been covered above but for this one, we are looking at a race from Ascot and are going to highlight a couple of further points about horse racing form.

Under the name of the horse, in this case Louie De Lama, there is what appears to be a confusing string of characters. But having read above you know how to read some of this.

20-5123 C2 D3 CD2

The 20-5123 is quick glance form, so you can see in his last race Captain Dan was third. You can see that he has ran four races this season, which is all the numbers to the right of the – symbol. What about the rest? Here is some big key horse racing form information coming up.

The C2 means that this horse has won at Course twice before. The D3 means that he has won at this Distance three times in career. The CD2 means that he has won over this Course and Distance twice. When a horse has such strong form at a course and distance, they are naturally going to be a key contender next time that they ran such a race.

(OR) under the weight listing means Official Rating. Horses are rated by weight. So if you see a horse with an OR of 110 and another at 105 then the first horse is five pounds heavier than the second. So the ratings means that the number you see in a handicap race is the weight that the horse will be starting at (jockey, equipment and weights included). Two horses may be the exact same physical weight, but one has had a winning career, the other not. So the first will have a higher rating when being handicapped.

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Doing the card?

So it can be as simple as grabbing nuggets of information like that to create an overview like that of a horse. You can’t really judge a horse’s chance of winning without seeing what competitors they are lining up against. So with time in hand it is going to be worth taking a scan over each of the runners in a race card. Obviously if this was a bigger race, say a field of 15 runners, then it would probably be just worth focusing on those towards the head of the market at shorter prices first. Then you could poke around for maybe a longer each-way chancer if that was your fancy.

The bookmakers know what they are doing. They are obviously experts in trading prices and they are not going to dramatically undervalue or overvalue a horse. So you know that looking at the shorter priced horses in a race, that is where the winner is most likely going to come from. But with that in mind, sport is unpredictable and there are no guarantees. Upsets happen, particularly with handicapping and that is the area in which reading form can provide you a big leg up in picking out value.

Another thing is, everyone has their own perception. Whatever you pull out of the information from horse racing form and decide what is the value bet, five different people could look and all come up with a different conclusion. Find your own way.

How to use form to strike a good value bet

So how does all this form come together to help you pick out a good value bet? Think of the pieces of form information as bits of a puzzle. You can piece it together. There is so much information out there and knowledge dispels confusion and basically fear as well, because horse racing form can be a little daunting for a beginner.

Next, let’s do a walkthrough of trying to pick out a good value bet in a race. We will keep it simple and pick a race from Bet365. Here is the card;

The first step we take is to read the race overview just for a little bit of insight. The key names we take away from reading that is Accidental Agent, Beat The Bank and Zaaki. We can take a look at the odds on each of them and they are all among the main contenders in the field. So as a starting point we need to break things down a little further;

The second thing that we take a glance at is form, so let’s compare.

Beat the Bank 00-102
Accidental Agent 105-3R
Zaaki 237-11

Zaaki is bang in form this season then with two wins from two so naturally he is going to pique interest. Accidental Agent hasn’t quite delivered thus far, so may be struggling to hit the heights and there is that big R in his form (refusal) from his last race. Beat the Bank has had mixed form, with a major blip sandwiching two good finishes. This is a 7 furlong and 213 yards race and the leading three contenders have all been racing at one mile or bigger. So there was nothing to split them there in terms of favoured distance. There are eight furlongs in a mile, incidentally so this race is all within their wheelhouse.

Next let’s see what the RacingPost has to say:

Beat The Bank

Accidental Agent

Zaaki

We can discern from that Accidental Agent looks the biggest risk of the three of them. So that clears him from our picture, so it becomes a pick between the other two. On the basis of this very basic analysis we can only presume Zaaki to be a very viable outright favourite and it’s important to realise that sometimes it is the favourite who you just can’t look past.

Another way to approach the card is to try and look for a decent outside chance who could make a run at strong finish. Just for an example we will pick out a couple of horses to see the sort of thing that may bring them into the picture.

By taking a look at the recent form of Suedois above he has been targeted in the slightly shorter 7 furlong races where he has not finished lower than fourth in any of them. But that would need to be weighed up with higher age in taking on youngsters in this field, but the info tells us he was third here in this very race twelve months prior. Interesting.

We can see from Matterhorn’s form that he has been extremely busy and has had top two finishes in four of his last five races, all roughly a mile and higher Class efforts as well. There’s enough to suggest that he could make a decent case for himself and isn’t bad value, therefore, to get in the mix.

Horse racing abbreviations

One thing that you will certainly notice about reading horse racing form is that you are going to need to pick up on a lot of lingo. There is a lot of information that is squeezed onto a small race card and therefore you get a lot of abbreviations to deal with.

We have covered some when it comes to the horse form such as F for Faller and CD meaning that a horse has won at a course and distance. Another area, which perhaps isn’t as notable, is a lot of abbreviations when it comes to equipment and course conditions.

Abbr. Horse Equipment indicated
b Blinkers are being worn
v A Visor is being worn by the horse
e/s Eyeshield
c/c Eyecover
h Hood
t Tongue Strap
p (or cp) Cheek pieces
Abbr. Ground Conditions
FST Fast
FM Firm
GD Good
GD-FM Good To Firm
GD-SFT Good To Soft
GD-YLD Good To Yielding
HD Hard
HVY Heavy
SLW Slow
SFT Soft
SFT-HVY Soft To Heavy
STD Standard
STD-FST Standard To Fast
STD-SLW Standard To Slow
YLD Yielding
YLD-SFT Yielding To Soft
Abbr. Other common Horse Racing Terms
OR Official Rating
NR Non Runner
SP Starting Price
C Course winner
D Distance winner
CD Course & Distance winner
BF Beaten Favourite

Horse Racing Form FAQ:

What are the racing fields?

A horse racing field is simply the horses in a race.

Where can I see the latest form of a horse?

You can see the latest form of a horse directly on a bookmaker website. They deliver plenty of information. Certain racing websites like the Racing Post will have a lot more details.

Can I watch past races to see form?

Bet365 offer links right from their race cards where you can click on a video of a horse’s previous race to see running form for yourself. You need to be an account holder to do that. Funded account holders can actually watch live races too.

Are all race cards the same at all bookmakers?

No. There will be variations in what is presented in terms of information and details. Some bookmakers will have more than others. Some will have dedicated sections for racing where they get really in-depth. Just as odds vary between bookmakers, so will the racecards and how they are presented.

In Summary

There is a lot to explore in horse racing form. Picking up on certain terminologies is going to help your progression as a bettor on horse racing. It is the way to assess risk and value in horse racing betting. Essentially, without all of that, you may as well pull a name out of a hat. If you don’t want to freak yourself all at once, ease yourself into it. Pick up on a few of the key areas to focus on and build up your knowledge as you go.

Another good approach before jumping heavily in is to study the results of races. See which factors were key (in hindsight) of determining the winner in a race? What vital pieces of information did the winner have in his form to be able to pull off that race win? Was it the course form? Distance form? Jockey/Trainer partnership? Age? Horse racing form can be challenging, but also extremely rewarding.

Want to learn more about betting on horses? Check out our other popular Horse Racing Guides.

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The Ultimate Guide to Studying Horse Racing Form
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The Ultimate Guide to Studying Horse Racing Form
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There is a lot to explore in horse racing form. Picking up on certain terminologies is going to help your progression as a bettor on horse racing.
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Article by Lee Jackson

Lee has built a vast working knowledge of different bet types, betting systems, probability and all-important experience. His experience within the betting industry extends to over a decade of researching and writing betting guides. Understanding the statistical and mathematical side of betting is something that fascinates Lee. The study of statistics and implied probability in odds are factors that he finds engaging and important to understanding the inner workings of the practice of betting.