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