If you want to bet profitably on horses, either by backing them to win or by laying them to lose, your ability to read horse racing form is a vital part of your betting arsenal. If you’ve never read horse racing form before, you may find the process of gathering information daunting in the first instance, but you’ll soon become familiar with how form is presented and which aspects of it you need to concentrate on.
The illustrations below are taken from the Racing Post website, www.racingpost.com, but you’ll find that wherever you look at horse racing form it’s presented in a more or less uniform way. At the highest level, form is presented on a meeting by meeting basis, with an individual racecard for each of the six or seven races that typically constitute a meeting.
Much of the information on the racecard, including the day, date, time and meeting, is self-explanatory. However, even some of the apparently obvious information assumes greater significance when it comes to narrowing down a field to a handful of potential winners.
The phrase “horses for courses” is well-worn, but it’s true that some horses perform better on some courses than others because they’re suited by the configuration of the course. Now, I happen to know that Huntingdon is a right-handed, fast, flat track so, in the absence of any course winners, I’d need to satisfy myself that any selection was capable of acting on such a track. In other words, I’d be looking for winning or placed form on a similar track, such as Kempton, Ludlow, Taunton or Wincanton.
Similarly, the title of the race provides information about the type of race you’re looking at. In this case, the race is a handicap hurdle or, in other words, a race in which each horse carries a weight, allocated by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) Handicapper, according to its ability and in which timber obstacles, at least 3’6” in height, must be cleared.
The other information on the racecard that relates to the race, itself, rather than the individual runners includes class, distance, going and prize money information. In this case, we’re looking at Class 4 race, open to four-year-olds and upwards rated 0-120 by the BHA, to be run over a distance of 2 miles and 110 yards on good going and worth £3,249 to the winner. When it comes to identifying a possible selection, it’s relative to this class, distance and going information that you’ll assess the form of each individual runner.
The number of runners is important because, typically, the lower the number of runners the better your chances of winning. However, if you’re looking for value, you need to strike the right balance between the number of runners and the odds available.
The racecard also contains vital information about each individual runner in the race. In the above example, we can see that No.1 Alwaystheoptimist:
finished fifth, first, second, first and fell on its last five starts
last ran 75 days ago
is a distance winner
is 10 years old
is set to carry a weight of 11st 12lb
is trained by Phil Middleton
is due to be ridden by Kielan Woods, who claims a 3lb allowance
So far, we’ve only looked at the overview of horse racing that you’d typically find on the racing page of a daily newspaper. However, one of the beauties of an electronic formbook, such as the one used by Racing Post Online, is that with just a few clicks of your mouse you can drill down into the form of any horse and examine its past performance on a race-by-race basis.
Let’s say that we want to examine the form of horse No. 4 Odin. By clicking on its name on the racecard, we can display a record of all its career races, ordered chronologically.
By clicking on a race, we can display a record of its performance in that race.
The subject of how to analyse horse racing form is large enough to fill several volumes, but the first thing we should be looking for with any horse is any disparity in class, distance, going, etc that could cause it to perform better, or worse, than it has in its recent races.
The major point of interest in this race is the fact that it’s a non-handicap, in which Odin met the winner on 5lb worse terms than he would have in a handicap. In other words, although he was comfortably brushed aside by the winner, it was a creditable performance in the same class, over a similar distance and on a similar course to the race under consideration.
Ideally, what we’d like to do next is to assess his ability in a handicap, as the race under consideration is a handicap, and we’re able to do that by looking at his previous run.
Once again, this race was in the same class, over the same distance and on a similar course to the race under consideration and Odin raced off the same handicap mark as he’s due to race off today. The fact that he weakened in the closing stages of this race and did so again at Market Rasen on his next start suggests that he may be a little too high in the weights at present and may need to come down a few pounds before winning a handicap. In other words, he can be expected to run his race under conditions that suit him, but doesn’t leap off the page as a potential selection.
It so happens that, in the race itself, Odin led over the second last, but was headed on the run-in and comfortably beaten 1½ lengths into second place by West Brit. Of course, if we were analysing the form “for real” we’d have needed to repeat the process for at least all of the fancied runners, but I hope this short example has illustrated some of the principles involved in reading horse racing form.