How to read a race card and studying form

There are tons of places to read a race card, whether you’re betting online with a betting website or reading a newspaper or the wall of a bookmakers. Studying the form is about patiently taking in all of the information available to you and making a betting decision based on the facts. Most people “study the form” using the racing post. But the majority of betting sites have a fairly adequate race card. Understanding a race card can be difficult but here’s some top tips to get you started…

What is a race card?

The race card is a full list of runners within a single horse race, which includes standard statistical information about each horse. To give yourself the best chance of picking winners, understanding how to read a race card is essential. On the race card you can expect to see the following:

  1. The race name (normally includes a prize sponsor)
  2. The race distance and grade (which indicates the standard of race)
  3. The time of the race
  4. Each horse’s name
  5. Jockey
  6. Owner(s)
  7. Trainer
  8. Colours worn by the jockey (silks)
  9. Weight (of the jockey and tack)
  10. Horse’s age
  11. The odds
  12. The form (a series placings in recent races)
  13. A spotlight (an expert’s view of the horses chances in the race)
  14. Information about the horses headgear

How do you study the form?

When looking how to read a race card, one of the most important factors will be form. The actual form is the recent race history of the horse. But ‘studying the form’ is more a phrase, basically meaning researching a race in order to pick a winner. To study the form, you use the data and information presented on the race card to plot your selection for your chosen race. Asking the following questions can be useful when selecting a horse:

  • How old is the horse compared to the others?
  • What is the weight (A handicapped race means horses are weighed down)
  • Is the trainer one of the best?
  • Is the jockey one of the best?
  • Is the jockey/trainer combination successful
  • Are the horses owners known for having winners
  • Is it a competitive race with a big prize (more than £10k-£15k)
  • Are there a good number of runners, lots = open race, not many = competition too strong

How do you read the form?

This is different to the slang phrase of studying the form. The form is a series of digits on the race card that represent the horses recent running record. It can contain a confusing sequence of letters, symbols and numbers. But help is at hand.

What do the numbers & letters on a race card mean?

  • Single numbers from 1-9 indicate the horses recent placings
  • 0 represents the horse finishing 10th or worse
  • D the horse has won a previous race at the same distance as the race you are viewing
  • C the horse has won at the same course as the race you are viewing
  • CD the horse won at the same course and distance (possibly the same race)
  • BF the horse was a beaten favourite in a recent race
  • F the horse fell either in running or over a fence
  • U the jockey became unseated and the horse remained upright
  • P the jockey pulled the horse up and did not finish the race
  • R the horse refused to run or jump a fence
  • B the horse was brought down by another (not used that often)
  • – indicates a change in season i.e the break between one season to the next
  • / means a new year, as in the switch between one year to another

Why do race horses wear headgear?

When reading a race card, you will see references to headgear. Headgear is often listed on the card to signify what the horse will be wearing during the race and if it differs from it last outing, it can indicate a change in strategy by the trainer. Headgear on a horse is supposed enhance the horse’s concentration by limiting the vision or hearing. Horses can cope with headgear in different ways, so for that reason it ranges from all out hoods which cover the head, to blinkers which simply narrows the horses view and limits its peripheral vision.

Headgear abbreviations

h – Hood
b – Blinkers
v – Visor
p – Cheekpieces
t – Tongue tie
e – Eye hood
e/c – Eye cover
e/s – Eyeshield
Ht – Hood & tongue tie

About The Gambler

Ryan Murton is the Editor-in-chief at Bookies Reviews. He is a keen football & boxing fan. He also has an interest in the NFL. He is a passionate Burnley supporter & also likes the Green Bay Packers.

Ryan has previously worked for bookmakers like Betfair & Paddy Power, as well as working at Oddschecker, the odds comparison platform.

You can follow Ryan on Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.

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