How To Read Horse Racing Form

How To Read Horse Racing Form

The ability to read and interpret horse racing form is an essential skill for punters who want to win money at the races.

In this article, we're going to help you better understand how to read horse racing form. We'll break down the raw data, and examine how it should be applied when making selections on the best UK betting sites.

What Is Horse Racing Form

Learning how to read horse racing form isn't all that complicated, it just takes a good understanding of some fundamentals and a lot of patience.

In a nutshell, horse racing form presents the key facts and data from a horse’s previous performances to give you an idea of how they'll perform in an upcoming race. Form reveals important information like previous jockey's names, the horse's weight and height, and most importantly, it outlines a detailed performance record.

Horse racing form is nearly always presented on a race-by-race basis – with each row of data referencing an individual contest. Levels of detail can vary depending on your preferred media outlets, bookmakers or new betting sites, but nearly all horse racing form will include fundamental information about each contest, like the race type and value, the course name, going conditions, etc, which are set out in easy-to-read fashion.

The theory is that the detail of a horse’s previous form can often prove a reliable guide to what they are going to produce in the future. There is obviously a lot more to it than that, which will be examined below.

Where To Find Horse Racing Form

Learning how to read horse racing form is made much easier by the fact that most of the best  horse racing betting sites offer this valuable information freely.

Simply click on any horse and some low-level form information will appear. It's even possible to get free access to race replays with some betting apps and sites for those punters that prefer visual evidence over the bare facts.

Anyone attending a race meeting will have access to horse racing form via the racecard, which generally costs between £2 and £5, depending on the quality of the meeting. Racecards contain valuable form information for every race at that meeting, as well as horse by horse synopsis and a race overview, much like the Spotlights you would read in the Racing Post.

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Horse Racing Form Explained

Learning how to read horse racing form can be a touch overwhelming because of the sheer amount of information on show. Let’s take a more detailed look at how to read the horse racing form and examine what exactly each number and symbol represents...

  • First and foremost, form should be read left to right.
  • Ordinarily, a horse’s most recent form figures will be laid out in a sequence with the most recent run on the right.
  • For example, the sequence 47312 would indicate that the horse in question finished runner-up on his most recent outing. (If there is a zero in this sequence, it means the horse finished tenth or worse).
  • There are often separating symbols in amongst these form figures; a forward slash (/) symbol denotes a calendar year, so everything to the left of that symbol will be from a previous year.
  • Similarly, a hyphen (-) symbol applies the same logic but to a new season, so everything to the right of the hyphen will be form from the current season, whether that is Flat or Jumps.
  • For example, form figures of 413-35 would indicate that a horse has finished third and fifth in two starts this season.
  • A horse’s age and weight carried will normally appear in the following style: 5yo 9st 6lb – which means the horse is five years of age and carried nine stone and 6lb in that race.
  • The weight is presented as a sum amount of the horse, plus the weight of the jockey (lead weights in the saddle cloth make up the difference between jockey weight and total weight).
  • Distances will nearly always appear in form lines, so a horse finishing second with 4 1/2l next to their name was beaten a total of four and a half lengths.
  • There will often be a number after the horse’s name that denotes the number of days since the horse last ran, e.g. 256 would indicate that the horse hasn’t run for 256 days.
  • The jockey’s name will nearly always be included in the form line, along with the horse’s official rating (OR). On dedicated horse racing sites, the OR will be supplemented by their own rating or speed figure.
  • Its always a good idea to combine strong research into a horse's form with free bets and other promotions offered by the best bookies.

Common Abbreviations in Horse Racing Form

Horse racing form can often include letters as well as numbers, so let’s take a look at those letters and what they denote.

  • F = Fell. The horse fell during the race and therefore did not complete the course.
  • PU = Pulled Up. This generally occurs when a jockey feels like there is something amiss with his mount so withdraws the horse from the heat of battle.
  • U = Unseated. It's not uncommon for a rider to lose his balance in the saddle, especially if a horse jumps or lands awkwardly. In short, this is where a horse loses his jockey without actually falling.
  • SU = Slipped Up. Sometimes a horse can slip on a turn, especially on a track that has had a lot of rain in a short space of time.

There will often also be letters after a horse’s name in horse racing form. This is what you might see and what it means.

  • C = Course winner. The horse has won at the course before – this is an important one as course form can often be very important, especially at tracks that have an idiosyncratic nature.
  • D = Distance winner. The horse has won over the distance of today’s contest.
  • CD = Course winner and distance winner. Note, this is not the same as a course and distance winner.
  • C&D = Course and distance winner. A horse proven over this track and trip.

Horse racing form guides will also contain letters that denote what type of ground a horse has been successful on before. Here is a full list of the possibilities.

  • H = Heavy ground.
  • S = Soft ground.
  • GS = Good to soft ground.
  • Y = Yielding ground (Applies to Irish racing only).
  • G = Good ground
  • GF = Good to firm ground.
  • F = Firm ground.

Finally, for this section, a form line will also provide information of any headgear or combination of headgear that a horse might be wearing this time. Here are those particular possibilities.

  • B = Blinkers
  • V = Visor
  • P = Cheekpieces
  • T = Tongue tie.

Why You Should Read Form

The ability to interpret horse racing form greatly enhances a punter’s ability to find good betting angles in a race.

The horse’s form figures will often indicate what sort of form a horse is in and it will also highlight via the – or / symbols whether a horse has been off the track for a significant amount of time. If there is nothing to the right of the / symbol and it is August, then you know that the horse has not run this year, which means it might not be in top racing condition.

Course form has long been king for many punters, so being able to pinpoint course winners easily via the ‘C’ is a major benefit.

Extreme going like Heavy or Firm is not for every horse but a quick glance at a horse’s form will reveal whether they have won on that type of ground before. If conditions are heavy, for example, and a horse has not won on anything worse than good to firm, then it's probably a runner to avoid.

Headgear can also be important for a variety of reasons. The application of headgear for the first time can often be the catalyst for improved form.


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What to Look For Alongside Horse Racing Form

Horse racing form can only tell us so much, indeed form figures can often be misleading, so it's always advisable to dig below the surface when preparing to make your selections. Here are some factors to consider:

  1. Trainer's Form: It's impossible to gauge from a form line what sort of form a trainer’s horse has been in, so take some time to research this. Even the biggest yards go through quiet spells.
  2. Form Figures: Whilst form figures can provide an overview of a horse’s recent form, they can also mask some important details. For example, a horse can finish second in a jumps race but might have been beaten by 40 lengths. Conversely, in a competitive flat handicap, a horse could finish sixth yet only be beaten by a length and a half.
  3. Ground Conditions: Just because a horse has not won on a certain ground type, doesn’t mean it can't win on that type of surface.
  4. Ratings: The majority of horse races are handicapped so a horse’s handicap mark is an important piece of information. Horses that have been dropping down in the weights should - in theory - be getting closer to the point where they can win.
  5. Jockey Booking: Jockey bookings can be strong pointers for a variety of reasons. A jockey could have a good record for that trainer, they might ride that track particularly well, or they might be travelling a long way for just one ride, which is often a good angle.

How To Read Horse Racing Form  - Key Takeaways

The ability to interpret horse racing form is crucial for any racing punter, but it pays to dig below the surface and get into more specific detail.

The data sets included in most horse racing form are broad brushstrokes that provide fundamentally important information. However, the broader the information, the greater the possibility that it could be misleading.

A good example of this is the letters that denote ground conditions a horse has won on. As mentioned earlier, just because a horse hasn’t won on heavy ground, it doesn’t mean that they haven’t run well in defeat on that type of surface, indeed they might have run a personal best on heavy ground without winning.

Mastering how to read horse racing form is only the beginning because when it comes to assessing a horse’s chance, the deeper you dig, the more accurate your assessment will be. 

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