How To Read Horse Racing Form

Reading horse racing form starts with understanding the various numbers and letters that are next to a horse’s name on a race card. But it’s knowing what to do with those figures that can help you pick winners and make a profit from betting on horse racing.

What Do The Numbers Mean Next To A Horse’s Name?

You’ll often see a string of numbers next to a horse’s name that looks something like this, 05/472-1. The numbers are simply the horse’s form, I.e. the positions it finished in its races, with its last race being the number furthest to the right. In this example, this means the horse finished won its last race, while it finished second, seventh, fourth, and fifth on its four previous runs. The 0 means it finished tenth or worse.

You can also see a dash in the horse’s form, and this means that the three runs before that were in the previous season. The / before that means the runs before that came two seasons ago. Further /s in the form mean that you’re going back one more season for each /.

Other numbers you may see on a race card include the number of days since a horse last ran, while there is also likely to be a rating figure that has been assigned to the horse by the official British Horse Racing handicapper. For example, you might see a rating of 98. These two numbers are not always in the same place on race card but can normally be found somewhere.

What Do The Letters Mean In Horse Racing?

There are several letters that can appear in a horse’s form, and below is a simple chart explaining them.

B = Brought Down
C = Carried Out
D = Disqualified
F = Fell
L = Left At Start
O = Ran Out
P = Pulled Up
R = Refused
S = Slipped Up
U = Unseated Rider
V = Void Race

There are also a variety of other letters that might appear in a horse’s form on a racecard, with C = course winner, D = distance winner, CD = course and distance winner, and BF for beaten favourite.

Others include b for blinkers, v for visor, p for cheekpieces, and t for tongue-tie. A 1 next to any of these lower-case letters means the horse is wearing this type of headgear for the first time.

Other letters that have appeared recently include are WS, which means the horse has recently undergone wind surgery. These letters are normally followed by a number such as 1, to show that it is its first run since having its wind surgery.

Understanding Horse Racing Form

If you’re looking to make a profit from horse racing, the first thing to understand is that numbers and letters in horse racing form only have so much relevance. It’s the punters that can read between the lines and find reasons why the bookmakers may have priced up a race wrong who normally make a profit from betting.

Let’s take understanding the numbers to the extreme. Just imagine a human male runner had a string of 1’s next to his name after winning the weekly race at his local athletics club. However, if he was then asked to race against Usain Bolt in the 100-metres Olympic Final, you wouldn’t expect him to win, would you?

What you need to understand about horse racing is there are lots of different classes, so a seventh-place finish in one race could be a lot better form than a win in a much lower-class race. Ratings of horses will give you a better insight into class, but ratings are still only the opinion of the handicapper based on what he has seen a horse achieve. What these marks don’t do is tell you is the potential of a horse to rate much higher or that a horse hasn’t run up to form for a few runs.

Horses also tend to have ratings based on their best recent performances, but they may have only run to that rating at one racecourse. The racecourses in the UK and Ireland are very different from each other, and a horse may only run-up to its rating at one or a few of these.

The numbers on a race card also don’t tell you how quickly a horse race was run. Some horses love running at a slow early pace and then sprinting past rivals late on. Others need to have a flat-out gallop from start to finish to be seen at their best. Sadly, all the numbers on a race card won’t tell you this.

The number of days since a horse last ran can be an interesting one to consider, as some horses go better after a large break between races and some after a short break. Again, form figures won’t tell you this but studying the form book can.

Letters in horse racing form are instantly off-putting for many punters, and why would you want to bet on a horse that has recently fallen, pulled-up, or been left at the start. However, it’s always worth re-watching races to see if horses with this type of form have been unlucky. Horses are often unlucky to be brought down, slip up, or carried out and it can be worth forgiving them.

It’s also worth considering whether a horse was racing in a race that was too hot for it, as its jumping will be under a lot less pressure when dropped in class.

The fitting of first-time headgear may not mean much to many people but blinkers and tongue-ties can be legitimate reasons for a horse showing improved form. Some trainers excel when adding headgear, so checking out these statistics can be a good source of potential winners. Wind surgery can also help many horses, as they can run harder for longer if they can breathe better.

Let Someone Else Read The Formbook For You

While reading the formbook at face value doesn’t take much effort, professional punters and tipsters do hours of studying to try and find reasons why the obvious form is worth ignoring. This allows them to find the value bets in races, which is ultimately the way to make a profit from horse racing.

If you don’t have time to delve so deeply into the formbook, don’t worry, we’ve got various free betting tips and free horse racing tips for you right here.

We hope that’s answered your question, ‘how to read horse racing form’ – happy punting!

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