How To Read a Race Card and Study Form

Being able to study and digest a race card and then base your betting decisions on the form and your own intuition is something that a bettor develops a skill for over time.

There are a lot of places where you can read a race card, whether you’re betting online with a betting website or app or reading a newspaper or the wall of a bookmakers.

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 sometimes, but we’ve got some top tips to get you started and help you get a handle on mastering a skill that will pay off further down the line in your betting endeavours…

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, and means 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 and 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.

Official Rating on a race card

The Official Rating, abbreviated to OR, will also appear on the race card and refers to a rating given by the British Horseracing Authority. This rating pertains to the standard of the horse as deemed by the BHA, and appears alongside the weight carried by the horse (that of the jockey) in the race.

For more info on how to place a bet, check out our dedicated post here.

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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