How to read horse racing form

Racing form holds the key to being able to make an informed prediction about how any horse in the field for a race is likely to perform in that race.

racing formHowever, if you’re new to horseracing, navigating a simple race card can be daunting and even overwhelming.

You’ll feel like the card is packed with codes and jargon that make little sense, but conceal important secrets about what is likely to happen in the race. Fortunately, it’s quite simple to read racing form once you are equipped with the meanings of the codes and numbers on the cards.

Once you’re able to understand what form data means, the challenge you’ll face next is a bit trickier. You’ll need to understand how form data is likely to influence each horse’s performance in the race you’re planning on betting on.

What is form in horse racing?

Form in horse racing refers to a horse’s performance record. This can be tracked and presented in a few different ways:

  • Comprehensive form: this allows you to review all of a horse’s performances for every race it has run across a variety of race formats over the course of its entire career. This type of form is only available online, as it is not practical to display this much information on a printed race card. Even online, this data will only be displayed as part of a horse’s full profile.
     
  • Quick/recent form: quick form is the type of form you’re most likely to encounter when betting on racing. This form is printed next to the horse’s name on the race card and provides a brief overview of its performances over the course of its last five or six races.
     
  • Custom form: some betting and racing websites may have customized ways of presenting form. These will usually be more self-explanatory than quick or comprehensive form. This is because custom form displays are designed for beginners, and make form easy to understand and use when predicting how a horse will perform in a race.

For the purposes of this article we will be focusing on the quick UK horse racing form format, which is also used by major British and European bookmakers.

However, note that the type of form data presented, and how it is displayed, can vary considerably in other countries where horseracing is popular, such as the United States and Australia.

Try racing betting at William Hill, open an account and get a risk-free bet

Horse racing recent form explained

You’re probably reading this because you’ve bumped into the lines of numbers, letters and symbols that appear beside every horse’s name on a race card.

Before we explain how to understand horse racing form it’s important to explain what the numbers around the form mean.

This is because some bookmakers and racing websites do not label the form on race cards, and instead print form alongside other numbers unrelated to the horse’s recent performance.

Finding the form

The following is an example of a single horse from a race card on a large online racing site.

little miss poet form screenshot

Can you spot the form?

In this card the form is the string of numbers on the left of the image of red and white silks: -31452.

The single number above the form is the horse’s starting position or race number. Some bookmakers and racing sites will publish other numbers besides, above or underneath the form.

These can include the number of days since the horse last ran, or the horse’s age and the handicap weight it will be carrying.

The easiest way to identify the form is therefore to look out for a string of six numbers, letters and characters, and disregard any numbers above of below this.

Horse racing form abbreviations, numbers, letters and symbols explained

Now that you have found the form, you’re going to need to decode it. We’ll use another horse from the same race card we used earlier as an example.

Kupatana race horse form screenshot

Here’s how it works:

  1. The list of six numbers and symbols are the results for the horses’ most recent races. These are listed in chronological order, with the oldest result on the left and the most recent result on the right.
  2. Where a letter is used instead of a number, the horse did not complete the race or the result of the race was not valid, and the letter indicates why its race ended. These letters appear more frequently on National Hunt race cards because it is not unusual for jumps racehorses to fail to complete a race
  3. Whenever you see a hyphen (the symbol) or a forward slash (the / symbol) this is not a race result at all. Instead these indicate different types of breaks from racing.

The horse racing form abbreviations work as follows:

  • Numbers 1-9 indicate the horse’s finishing position if it finished in the top nine
  • The number 0 indicates that horse didn’t finish in the top nine
  • The symbol indicates a break between seasons in one calendar year, or that two races on either side of it took place in different years
  • The / symbol indicates a break from racing longer than the off-season (i.e. longer than the typical break between racing seasons).

The most common abbreviations mean the following:

  • P or PU – the horse was pulled up by the jockey
  • F – the horse fell in the race
  • R – the horse refused (i.e. refused to jump over an obstacle)
  • BD – the horse fell after being struck by another horse in the field
  • U or UR – the horse unseated the jockey

Less frequently you will see the following abbreviations for both jumps and flat racing:

  • S – the horse slipped up
  • HR – the horse hit the rails
  • L – the horse was left at the start and did not compete meaningfully in the race
  • O – the horse ran outside of the designated race course
  • C – the horse was carried out, i.e. forced off the designated course by another horse
  • D – the horse was disqualified
  • V – the relevant race was voided for any reason (i.e. the race produced no result)

Once you have the meanings for these codes, you can easily make sense of the form on a race card.

Contextual form data

Many online race cards will display some additional data on horse form elsewhere on the card. A different set of letters to provide some information that is relevant to the context of the race that you are looking at, where this data is available.

Going back to the first example we looked at:

Kupatana race horse form screenshot

You’ll see that the letter ‘D’ is printed on a grey background beneath the horse’s name. This is an example of contextual form data. Usually you will only see one or two abbreviations displayed on the card.

Here’s what these abbreviations mean:

  • C – horse has previously won at the course for this race
  • D – horse has previously won over the distance for this race
  • CD – horse has previously won over this course and distance
  • BF – the horse started its most recent race as a favourite, and was beaten.

Putting it all together

Now that we have the ability to translate form on a race card, let’s use a fairly challenging example from a major UK racing website.

Brillare Momento race horse form screenshot

Looking at the example above, where the form reads 80-3P7 we can conclude that the horse:

  1. Finished 8th
  2. Finished outside the top 10
  3. Took a short break from racing
  4. Placed 3rd
  5. Failed to finish the race because it was pulled up
  6. Finished 7th

In addition we can see from the ‘D’ beneath the horse’s name that it has won previously over the distance for this race.

What to look for in racing form

Understanding what horse racing form abbreviations and numbers mean is only half the battle won when it comes to learning how to read horse racing form.

Once you understand how the horse performed over recent races, you’ll need to understand what this means for its prospects in the race you’re planning on betting on.

Horse racing form analysis

The most important thing to understand about quick form is that it is designed to give you an overview of each horse in a field and is usually not enough, by itself, to select a horse to bet on.

Racing form is most effective when used to narrow down potential horses to investigate further, which you will need to do if you want to put a horse’s recent performances into context.

While a glance at quick form can never replace proper research on the form of the horses you are considering backing, some form indicators are more important than others. These include:

  • B/BD or F: a horse that fell in its most recent race may have sustained an injury or damaged its confidence, which will affect how it performs in the race you’re betting on
  • - or /: horses coming off breaks will frequently run strongly in their comeback race before performing poorly in the next one – this is known as the ‘bounce’
  • 1-4: horses that won or placed in one or more recent races can be assumed to be in good form, and will have improved prospects in the race, all things being equal
  • C, D or CD: a horse that has won over the course and/or distance for the race you’re betting on has effectively already proven themselves to some extent and deserves a closer look.

By the same token, you should avoid reading too much into form indicators that highlight poor performances in one to three recent races. These include:

  • P/PU: a jockey may pull up a horse for any number of reasons that are not relevant to form, including, for example, as a precaution if injury is suspected
  • 0: a horse that finishes outside the places can do so for any number of factors that may not affect its prospects in the race you’re betting on. These include course length, conditions or handicap that the horse is unsuited to, jockey errors, or a combination of these.

With the above in mind you should use quick form to scan a race card and identify two or three horses on the card who you think have a shot in the race. Once you have this information you can conduct more in-depth research into each horse.

This should include:

  1. watching replays of recent races. Replays of races where the horse performed poorly allow you to see how the horse performed throughout the race and what errors were made. Races where the horse placed can indicate whether the horse lost pace towards the end of the race, or was catching up with the leader and may have won over a longer course.
  2. taking the context of each race into account, including:
    1. the quality of the field the horse was up against
    2. the distance run over each race, and how this aligned with the horse’s preferences
    3. any handicaps carried in these races, and how these aligned with the horse’s preferences
    4. the ground condition for the race, and how this affected the horse’s performance.

If this sounds like too much hard work, you can rely on expert tipsters to assist you in making your picks. Our Naps page features winner predictions for today’s races from the leading horseracing experts in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

FAQs

How do I look up horse racing form?

Quick form is printed near the racehorse name on every race card that is published online or on printed cards at betting shops. This is a series of six numbers, letters and symbols indicating the horse’s most recent results.

Does horse form show all races?

Horse form only shows up to the six most recent races run by a horse. This means that for horses just starting their careers, the form will show all their races. However, for the majority of horses it is only an indication of their last six results.

What is the best horse racing form guide?

The best free horse racing form guide in the UK is the Racing Post, which is also accessible online. The standard quick form is displayed on every race card at the Racing Post.

You can also click on each horse name to access its full race record, which in turn links to full results for every race a horse has run.

What is the best site for horse racing form?

The best free horse racing form website is the Racing Post, which offers in-depth form data on thousands of flat and national hunt racehorses that are active around the world.

Can you recommend horse racing form software?

There are a number of apps and programs out there that claim to be able to crunch the numbers to help you identify horses to bet on.

Many websites also have custom form displays that allow punters to access a greater depth of form information in simple-to-understand formats.

We can’t recommend any single software system for reading form. You’ll need to test your options and see what works for you, bearing in mind there is no substitute for doing proper form research on individual horses.

How important is form in racing?

Horse race betting and form go together. Without form you have basically no information available to you to determine how a horse will perform in a given race. However, form will be more relevant in some races than in others.

For example form is not as relevant in juvenile races, as 2-year-olds usually have a limited race record and can experience major variations in form as they mature over the course of a season.

By comparison, form is invaluable when trying to decode a race card packed with high quality, mature racehorses, where you’ll need as much information as possible to have a chance of predicting which horse is likely to run out a winner.

What does 0 mean in horse racing form?

0 means that the horse finished outside the top nine in the relevant race.

What does - mean in horse racing form?

A symbol means that the horse took a break from racing between seasons. This symbol can also be placed between two race results to indicate that the races took place in different years.

What does / mean in horse racing form?

A / symbol means that a horse took an extended break from racing. This is typically a break longer than the usual off-season breaks that horse routinely take between racing seasons, and will often follow an injury.

What does B mean in horse racing form?

B, which can also be written as BD, means ‘brought down’. The horse was unable to finish the race due to a collision with another horse that caused it to fall.

What does P mean in horse racing form?

P, also written as PU, means that the horse was pulled up during the race. This means the jockey deliberately ends the horse’s race.

What does PU mean in horse racing form?

PU, also written as P, means that the horse was pulled up during the race and did not complete it. Horses are pulled up by jockeys once they decide the horse should not complete the race for any reason.

What does F mean in horse racing form?

F means that the horse fell during the course of the race and was unable to complete it. Note that horses that fall during races may continue running the course without the rider, and that they are considered fallers even if they pass the finishing line.

What does R mean in horse racing form?

The letter R in form means that the horse refused, or pulled up short of a jump without taking the jump.

What does BD mean in horse racing form?

BD, also written as B, means that a horse fell during the course of a race due to a collision with another horse.

What does U mean in horse racing form?

U, also written as UR, means that the jockey was dislodged from the horse’s saddle during the course of a race.

What does UR mean in horse racing form?

UR, also written as U, means that the jockey fell from the horse’s saddle during the course of the race.

What does C mean in horse racing form?

When included in the six figures that make up recent form, C means that the horse was pushed off the designated race course during a race by another horse.

When displayed outside of the recent form figures, C means that the horse previously won on the racecourse it is due to run on next.

What does D mean in horse racing form?

When included in the six figures that make up recent form, D means the horse was disqualified from the race following a steward’s enquiry after the race.

When displayed outside of the recent form figures, D means that the horse previously won over the distance it is due to run next.

What does CD mean in horse racing form?

CD means that the horse previously won over the same course and distance as the race it will be competing in next.

What does BF mean in horse racing form?

BF means that the horse started its last race as the favourite and was beaten in that race.

What does HR mean in horse racing form?

HR means the horse collided with the guiding rails that run alongside the racecourse and was unable to finish the race as a result.

What does L mean in horse racing form?

L means the horse was left at start. In other words the horse either refused, or was unable to, leave its starting position in the race.

What does O mean in horse racing form?

O means that the horse ran out the course. In other words the horse ran outside the designated course defined for the race using the rails alongside the racetrack.

What does S mean in horse racing form?

S means that the horse slipped up during the race and was unable to complete it as a result.

What does V mean in horse racing form?

V means that the result of the race was voided. In other words something occurred during the race that caused the entire race result to be scrapped and dismissed.

 

Try racing betting at William Hill, open an account and get a risk-free bet

Related Articles

  • Are free bets for real? How you get them and what strategies you can use to turn them into profits.
  • Have any questions about how horse racing odds work? We provide feedback on common questions about horse racing odds in ...
  • Did you know? Betting that the favourite won't win a race is actually the smart option.