How to Read Horse Racing Form? (With Guides)

Guide to Horse Racing Form

Horse racing form is used throughout the industry by media, bookmakers and bettors alike.

But how?

To the untrained eye, it can seem fairly complicated. A seemingly random string of numbers following bizarre names of horses, besides even more cryptic race types. It’s easy to see how someone can become confused when first looking at a racecard.

Horse Racing Form Card

You can open an exchange account that displays form in the above format by clicking here.

What is Horse Racing Form?

There are thousands of horse races each year in the UK, separated into multiple race types and grades. Every race contains multiple horses and as a horse racing bettor, this can make life a little difficult. Putting it simply, there are too many horses to keep track of. 

Football teams, for example, can be a little easier to memorise. Each league only has a limited amount of teams (roughly 20) and added to that, each team is usually named after a place! This is worlds apart from horse racing, where horses come and go from around the world. Although a few big-name horses are well-known amongst fans and amateurs alike (Tiger Roll, the back-to-back Grand National winner for), many are simply unheard of.

To make life easier and encourage betting, bookies have long provided form information on bet slips to give a quick indication of the horses racing performance history. Without this, many casual bettors would be betting blind.

Betfair Event Black

How to Read Form in Horse Racing (the Numbers)

We’ll keep things simple to start with and use an easy example. If you take a look at “El Misk” in the screenshot above, you’ll see a short string of numbers underneath the horse’s name. In this case, it reads “1721”.

Reading from RIGHT to LEFT, this means that the horse won its last race, came second in the one previous to that, seventh before that and first before that.

You may also see forward slashes and hyphens within these numbers. Numbers to the left of a dash represent results in the previous season, whilst numbers to the left of a forward slash represent two seasons previous. For example, if the form read as “17/2-1”, this would mean that the horse has only run once this season and once in the season before that.

Please Note:

If you see a zero (0), this means that the horse finished above 9th place. This is why you never see “12th / 12” in the form, rather than “0”.

What Do the Letters Mean in Horse Racing Form?

To explain why a horse didn’t finish a race, we need something else besides numbers to give a fuller picture. This can be particularly helpful if a horse with a good track record fails to complete a race. Without any further knowledge, you may assume that the horse was simply too unfit to finish. However, it may be entirely possible that the rider became unseated (U), through events outside of its control.

The full list of abbreviations can be seen below:

  • B – brought down
  • C – carried out
  • D – disqualified
  • F – fell
  • HR – hit rails
  • L – left at the start
  • O – horse ran out
  • P – pulled up
  • R – refused
  • S – slipped up
  • U – unseated rider
  • V – void race

Using Horse Racing Form to Your Advantage:

Before anything, it’s critical that you understand this main fact of form in horse racing and any sport, for that matter.

Form only shows historical results. It does not and cannot predict the future (let alone value).

It would certainly be an educated guess that if a horse had won three of his previous races, that he has a good chance of doing well in the next. However, there is a large range of factors in each race that can influence a result. Many of which are unrelated to previous successes.

Some might include:

  • Length of course
  • Quality of competition
  • Weather
  • Jockey
  • Big crowds/small crowds

Instead of using the form as the bible of predictions, it is best to take it with a pinch of salt and maintain awareness that everyone else is probably using it as if it is a guaranteed method of predicting future outcomes. This is arguably more important for pre-race trading than it is for outright betting though.

Related: See the No.1 Betfair Trading Course Online

12 thoughts on “How to Read Horse Racing Form? (With Guides)

  1. Spending hours each day studying ‘donkey derby races’ will leave the majority of you tearing your hair out, including myself. Most of the time we would not find the winner in any case.

    Caan has pointed out one decent strategy in regards to long distance travellers who have/are being backed on ‘the exchanges’, NOT the bookies.

    It is a simpe matter of finding the daily longest distance travellers. You could even look up how the trainers charges perform at that track, or the jockeys percentages as well.

    However, there is another source of constant winners (if you can practice patience). These will not come along everyday, nor every week. But they are there to be found in a couple of minutes.

    The thing is these runners/winners are to be found year in year out and the good news is, it can never change!

    For those who have a healthy appetite for some research here are a couple of races to look at that have taken place during the revous few weeks. These winners ALL have the same thing in common:
    Newmarket 27th June Limato 5/1
    Goodwood 1.45 One Master 6/4f
    Goodwood 3.45 Pablo Escobarr 9/2

    For example, if you look at the race overall the three mentioned above would stand out.

    There can be long gaps between runners, this is where patience is needed. If none of the type of races are on the menu, then move on and wait.

    I have no doubt that some will view this as ‘aftertiming’. To those I say, yeah great and don’t bother to look at the races. For those who are prepared to work hard enough, you will find the research worth your while.
    Good luck

    1. Staurday 8th August 2020
      Just to take it forwrd a little. I am posting this on Friday 7th August so that it will e live on Saturday.
      Just spent less that 5 minutes on two races and came up with teo selections, plus a lay bet.
      Haydock 2.05 Veracious
      Haydock 2.40 Zaaki + a lay bet on Global Giant
      As suggested in my first post, look at these races & runners overall make up. keep it simple, very simple. In fact, you ‘usually’ only need to look at the first three/five in the betting market.

  2. Last week produced a winning fav and a winning lay bet.

    Tomorrow, Saturday 15th at Newbury has a couple of decent renewals.
    3.0 Morando
    3.35 Threat

    1. On the 15th 1 Losing wager and a non-runner.

      Been away this week so could not post on Wednesday which was a shame as there were 2 runners and 2 winners both at good odds, oh well. here was nothing on Thursday apart from Love, but at the odds it was passed over.

      Today (Friday) in the 2,15 at York Entihaab is my sole win wager for the day, I shall also lay Dashing Willoughby in the same race.

  3. Thursday 27th August
    A winner and a winning lay in my last post.

    Beverley 3.30 Dakota Gold will be my main wager, however, I shall have a stake saver on Alpha Delphini and will also lay Keep Busy.

  4. Saturday 29th August

    Nice price winner last time plus a winning lay in the same race.

    Today (Saturday) is a difficult day with the going changes, so caution is the watchword (Moderate stakes shall be used today.
    ). There are two races that I shall be investing in.

    Windsor 2.40
    At the odds Sextant shall be taken along with Desert Encounter in a dutch wager.

    Windsor 3.15
    Extra Elusive
    Interesting to note that Hollie Doyle has been retained to ride.

    I cannot help but wonder if anyone has taken the time to research any of the selections.

    1. 4th Sept 20

      Previous post had 1 winner and a losing dutch wager. Nonetheless a nice profit was still made on the day.

      Saturday 5th Spet.

      A couple of decent renewals today, however, only on race shall be of interest for myself.
      Haydock 3.25 Hello Youmzain. Plus if Art Power is available at 5.0 or less near post time then it will be a lay.

  5. Only just seen this mate. Looks interesting,can you put up any for today if there are. I want to try and work it out. Cheers mate.

    1. Hi Roger.
      There is only one investment for today as far as I am concerned. As above.
      Haydock 3.25 Hello Youmazain
      The going is going to be on the heavy side of soft, so a little caution in regards to stakes should be taken.

      OK, I can give you lots going back years, but it will be best to keep it up to date. You have the one for today, and there are more above from recent races. That should be enough to keep you burning the midnight oil for a few days. If you have any questions, then just ask.

      To get you started. First look at the race types, then the first 5 in the betting F/cast. Then study each horses three seasons form, there really is nothing compicated in finding these selections. They will supply you with a constant stream of winners year in year out, and as I have stated in an earlier post. THIS CAN NEVER CHANGE.
      I will advise you that not all can win, that is impossible but a healthy strike rate of around 60%+ is easily achieved.

      Good luck

      1. Saturday 12th September 20
        Doncaster 3.0
        An interesting renewal where Shine So Bright will be my only investment for today.

        1. Big priced loser last time, however, these do pop up once in a while.

          Saturday 19th September 20
          Ayr 1.55 Fox Chairman Is my only investment today.

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