Winning Starts with Beginning: Understanding the Racing Post

Winning Starts with Beginning: Understanding the Racing Post  Since the demise of the Sporting Life in 1998, the Racing Post newspaper and its website,, have been definitive sources of horse racing information for the British betting public. However, if you’re new to horse racing or unfamiliar with the Racing Post, we thought you might appreciate a brief taster of what to expect when you open its virtual pages.


The Racing Post launched an enhanced online offering, known as the Racing Post Members’ Club, available to anyone willing to pay a monthly subscription, in 2009. However, the good news for horse racing fans is that all the essential features – cards, form, statistics, etc – are still available completely free of charge.


Obviously, it’s difficult to review every single feature available in an article of this length, so we’ll concentrate on how to read the cards and how to drill down to the information you need, whether its form, jockey, owner or trainer statistics, or anything else.


To find the racecard you want, click on “Cards” on the menu at the top of the Racing Post homepage. By default, the cards for the current day’s racing are displayed, meeting by meeting, but if you want to view racecards for the following day, or further into the future, click on “Tomorrow” or one of the other options at the top of the page.


For the sake of this example, let’s say we want to view the racecard for Thirsk on Tuesday, September 16 on the evening of Monday, September 16. We click “Cards”, “Tomorrow” and the name of the race, “Follow Us @Thirskraces Handicap” to display the following racecard.


Most of the information in the race header is self-explanatory and, in this case, we can see at a glance that this is a Class 4 handicap, exclusively for three-year-olds rated between 0 and 85 by British Horseracing Authority (BHA), and due to be run over a mile on good to soft going.


It’s only really when we examine individual horses that some of the letters and numbers on the racecard need further explanation, so let’s have a look at them.


Racecard Number: A sequential number that identifies the position of the horse on the racecard. Typically only used when placing a bet with a bookmaker on the racecourse, or a Tote bet.


Draw: A number that identifies the position of a horse in the starting stalls. Nowadays, on left-handed and right-handed racecourses, the numbering of the stalls always starts on the inside.


Finishing Position: A series of alphanumeric characters indicating the horse’s finishing position in its recent races. The numbers 0 to 9 indicate finishing positions, while you may also see the letters F for “fell”, O for “ran out”, P for “pulled up”, R for “refused”, RR for “refused to race”, S for “slipped up” and U for “unseated rider”. Occasionally, you may also see the letter V for “void”, which means that the result of race in question for declared void for some reason.


Horse: Obviously the horse’s name, but also a figure indicating the number of days since it last ran and an abbreviation for any headgear that the horse is set to wear. Abbreviations you may come across include:


b for “blinkers”

c for “cheekpieces”

e for “earplugs”

h for “hood”,

t for “tongue tie” and

v for “visor”


In all cases, a superscript “1” alongside the abbreviation means that the horse is wearing the headgear for the first time. For example, b1 indicated blinkers first time.


Age: The age of the horse, in years. Regardless of their foaling date, all racehorses have their official birthday on January 1.


Weight: The weight that the horse is set to carry, regardless of any allowance claimed by an apprentice or conditional jockey, or any overweight.


Trainer: The name of the trainer responsible for the horse.


RTF%: An abbreviation for “Ran To Form”; the percentage of the horses in the trainer’s care that ran as well as expected, according to their BHA rating, in the last 14 days.


Jockey: The name of the jockey due to ride the horse in the race in question. Apprentice or conditional jockeys, who claim an allowance, are indicated by a superscript number, usually a 3, 5 or 7, but sometimes a 10, which represents the number of Imperial pounds they claim.


OR: An abbreviation for “Official Rating”; the rating allocated by the BHA that represents, in Imperial pounds, the ability of once horse relative to another. As you can see from the example above, a horse with an OR of 85 is required to concede 2lb to a horse with an OR of 83, and so on, in a handicap.


TS: An abbreviation for “Top Speed”; A rating based on the races times recorded by the horse, as calculated by the Racing Post. The figure displayed is the best rating recorded by the horse, adjusted for the weight it is set to carry in the race in question.


RPR: An abbreviation for “Racing Post Rating”; A rating based on the previous race record or, in other words, a private handicap rating calculated by the Racing Post, rather than the BHA. The figure displayed is the best rating recorded by the horse, adjusted for the weight it is set to carry in the race in question.


Of course, one of the beauties of the Racing Post website is the ability to drill down to the race-by-race record of each horse on the racecard. This, in turn, reveals a whole raft of further information and an explanation of that information will form a later article in this series, ‘How to Understand the Racing Post Part II’.


We hope you enjoyed ‘Winning Starts with Beginning: Understanding the Racing Post Part I’and we will be back soon with another advanced betting guide. In the meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts on ‘Winning Starts with Beginning: Understanding the Racing Post Part I’in the comments section below. If you missed our previous post in this series, ‘Ten Things You Might Not Know About The Racing Post’, you can read it here.

What this Grand National Winner did Next

What this Grand National Winner did Next  The Grand National is, of course, the most celebrated steeplechase in Britain, if not the world. Despite various safety changes over the years, the Aintree marathon remains the ultimate test for horse and rider, a fact that appears to be reflected by the subsequent performance of Grand National winners, few of whom ever win again. With the 2019 National just around the corner, we’ve had a look at the National heroes of the last decade or so to see how they fared in their later careers, at Aintree and elsewhere.


Comply Or Die (2008) – Subsequent Wins: 0

Joint favourite when winning the National and second, off a 15lb higher mark, in 2009, but failed to trouble the judge in ten other starts, including two more Nationals, in 2010 and 2011.


Mon Mome (2009) – Subsequent Wins: 0

The first 100/1 winner since Foinavon, but fell at the fourth last in 2010 and, after a lengthy absence, was pulled up in 2012. All in all, in eighteen starts following his National win, he was placed just three times.


Don’t Push It (2010) – Subsequent Wins: 0

Famously a first National winner for jockey Sir Anthony McCoy, trainer Jonjo O’Neill and owner John McManus and third on his return to Aintree the following year, but unplaced on five other starts.


Ballabriggs (2011) – Subsequent Wins: 0

A second National winner for owner Trevor Hemmings, after Hedgehunter in 2005, but only sixth in 2012 and failed to complete the course in 2013. Placed just once in six starts following his National win.


Neptune Collonges (2012) – Subsequent Wins: 0

Last gasp National winner, under 11st 6lb and, at the age of eleven, was immediately retired.


Auroras Encore (2013) – Subsequent Wins: 0

Like Neptune Collonges, already an eleven-year-old when winning the National, at 66/1, but pulled up when attempting to become the first horse to complete the Grand National – Scottish Grand National double two weeks later and raced twice more, without success.


Pineau De Re (2014) – Subsequent Wins: 1

Another successful eleven-year-old, but raced on for two more seasons, and did manage to win another race, albeit over hurdles, before retirement beckoned.


Many Clouds (2015) – Subsequent Wins: 3

A third but, tragically, ill-fated National winner for Trevor Hemmings. Shouldered 11st 9lb to victory at Aintree and won three more races, but collapsed and died from a pulmonary haemorrhage after winning the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham.


Rule The World (2016) – Subsequent Wins: 0

The first novice to win the National since 1958, having twice recovered from a cracked pelvis to do so. Ran just once more, without success, before being retired.


One For Arthur (2017) – Subsequent Wins: 0

The first Scottish-trained winner of the Grand National since Rubstic in 1979. Missed the 2017/18 season with a tendon injury, but returned to training in 2018/19; unseated rider on both his first two starts, which does not augur well for his long-term aim, which is, once again, the Grand National.


Tiger Roll (2018) – Subsequent Wins: 0

An second National winner for trainer Gordon Elliot, after Silver Birch, despite having previously been described by his owner, Michael O’Leary, as ‘a little rat of a thing.’ Still only a nine-year-old, the Authorized gelding made a promising reappearance on the Cross Country Course at Cheltenham in December, 2018.

Horse Racing Form Guide

Horse Racing Form Guide  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,, 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.

Can We Really Trust The Clerk Of The Course?

Can We Really Trust The Clerk Of The Course?  The going or, in other words, how hard or soft the racing surface is on any given day, is an important factor in determining the outcome of a horse race. Indeed, it may also dictate which horses participate in the first place, because trainers are often loath to run their charges on going which they know is unsuitable. If the horse in question does run, you’ll often see a statement from the trainer that the horse was unsuited by the prevailing going on the ‘Why They Ran Badly’ page of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) website.


It has been suggested that the best horses can act on any of the official going designations (hard, firm, good to firm, good, good to soft, soft or heavy) but, while this may be true for the superstars, every horse tends to prefer specific types of going. It’s worth noting that even the all-conquering Frankel, officially the highest rated horse in Flat racing history, never raced on going softer than ‘soft’ or firmer than good to firm.


On turf, moisture softens the racing surface, allowing horses’ hooves to penetrate deeper below the surface. Some horses relish ‘cut in the ground’, while others prefer firmer underfoot conditions. Serious punters will therefore want to know (i) the state of the going as accurately as possible and (ii) which horses are capable of reproducing their best form on the prevailing going.


The state of the going at any racecourse can usually be determined by reference to the official going description published by the Clerk of the Course on the day on which racing takes place. In addition, the Rules of Racing stipulate that the official going description must be accompanied by an objective, numerical reading taken with a device known as a GoingStick. The GoingStick measures the penetration and shear of the racing surface at a given point and converts these variables into a final, mechanically consistent reading.


The GoingStick has eliminated the subjectivity associated with traditional going descriptions but, of course, it’s possible for the going to change after the initial GoingStick reading is published. Serious punters know to keep an eye on winning times during the day as an indication of possible going changes.


The trick, of course, is for punters to know which horses are capable of reproducing their best form on the prevailing going and which are not. For ‘exposed’ horses, going preference(s) can usually be determined by reference to the form book but, for ‘unexposed’ horses, which may have very little, or no, form in the book, punters need to rely on other factors.


Breeding, configuration and the way in which a horse moves its legs, known as its ‘action’, may determine which type(s) of going it prefers, but there are no hard and fast rules. It’s true that the progeny of some sires perform better on one type of racing surface or another, but don’t be mislead by commentators peddling outdated, often inaccurate, opinions. There are plenty of websites offering up-to-date sire statistics for all racing surfaces, including synthetic surfaces, free-of-charge, so rely on these if need be.


It stands to reason that, for horses of approximately the same size and weight, one with larger hooves, in terms of surface area, applies less pressure per hoof than one with smaller hooves and is therefore less likely to become ‘bogged down’ by soft or heavy going. It has been suggested that prospective ‘mudlarks’, or otherwise, can be identified by inspecting the size of their hooves in the paddock but, as this luxury is only available to on-course punters, off-course punters must rely on seeing a horse in motion.


Some horses have a pronounced knee action and lift their feet relatively high off the ground with each stride. As a result of this ‘rounded’ action, their feet strike the racing surface much harder with each stride than their counterparts who have a less pronounced, ‘daisy cutter’ action and keep their feet relatively low to the ground. It makes sense that the former type of horse is more at home with cut in the ground, on which it can fully let itself down without fear of injury, while the latter type is more at home under firmer conditions.


Of course, there will no doubt be an exception to prove every ‘rule’, but we hope we’ve provided a little insight into the going and why it’s important to everyone involved in racing. We hope you enjoyed ‘Can We Really Trust The Clerk Of The Course?’ and we will be back soon with another advanced betting guide. In the meantime, we would love to hear your thoughts on ‘Can We Really Trust The Clerk Of The Course?’ in the comments section below. If you missed our previous post in this series, ‘The Zen of Form Study’, you can read it here.