I'M no expert when it comes to horse racing but I like to think I know my way around a racecard. However, to the uninitiated all the numbers and abbreviations can seem a little daunting and enough to put people off from getting involved in the Sport of Kings so let's take a look at what it all means.

I've broken down a sample racecard to help any beginners out there understand what all the info that's crammed in actually means;

Example Horse Racing Card

4.20 Prince of Walse Stakes Group 1 Racecard

Jockey Colours

The first thing to notice is the colourful array of shirts the jockeys wear. These are largely representative of the horse's owners whose stable of horses will often run in the same colours or silks. It's therefore not uncommon for an owner to have two or more jockeys in the same race wearing the same colours.

Race Number and Draw

Next you'll note all horses are listed in numerical order, in this instance 1-9.

Note that on online racecards the horses can often be listed in betting order with the favourite at the top.

Under the horse's number, you can see another number in brackets. This is the number of the stall the horse will start the race from in a flat race, called its draw. The draw can be an important factor, especially in shorter races and larger fields where there is a bias for faster ground on particular sides of the racecourse.

Form

The next set of numbers details the recent form of the horse e.g 21-1161 to the left of Decorated Hero's name. Let's break this down.

  • 21 – refers to where the horse finished in their races last year. The most recent race is always at the right (in this instance the horse won its last race of last year). The numbers 1-9 indicate the position the horse finished in the race, the number 0 indicates the horse finished outside the first 9.
  • The symbol – (dash) – separates racing seasons. Numbers before the – are for last season.
  • 1161 – refers to where the horse finished in their races this year (again, the most recent race is on the right – the horse won its last race).
  • You'll see a slash symbol (/) beside Jack Hobbs' name, which indicates a longer gap, for example if the horse missed an entire racing season.
  • Other letters to look out for in the form are
    • P or PU  – indicates the horse was pulled up by the jockey and did not complete the race.
    • F – indicates the horse fell.
    • R – indicates a horse refused.
    • BD – indicates the horse was brought down by another runner.
    • U or UR  – indicates that the horse unseated its jockey.

Name

Fairly obviously the horse's name is next but more important is the info that follows. The number in brackets immediately after the name indicates the number of days since its last race.

Then you may also see some of theses abbreviations:

  • C – indicates a horse has won on that course before.
  • D – indicates a horse has won over the same distance as this race before.
  • CD – indicates a horse has won over the course and distance before.
  • BF – stands for beaten favourite and indicates a horse was favourite for it's last race, but did not win.

You may also see an abbreviation after a horse's name (e.g. IRE), this indicates where the horse was born if not in Great Britain.

Age & Weight

Next up it's the horse's age, in Decorated Knight's case, it's 5 years old.

Then follows the weight which is displayed in imperial unites of stones and lbs in Great Britain. You'll see that Decorated Knight's weight is 9st 0lbs.

In conditions races – including weight-for-age races – each horse is allocated a certain weight to carry, depending on factors such as age, sex and previous races won in certain circumstances.  In handicap contests, the weight for each horse is allocated by the official handicapper, according to past performance.

Jockey

The jockey's name is listed next. As well as looking for a horse in form, following a successful jockey or stable can be an effective way to begin your search for a winner.

Ratings

Some racecards will display each horse's official BHA Rating. The BHA Handicappers allot ratings to horses once they have taken part in a sufficient number of races to enable the Handicappers to make a numerical assessment of each horse’s ability.

On others, the Timeform rating will be displayed. You can read more about Timeform ratings here.

In this instance, this publication has its own rating system, with each horse's chances ranked out of 100. You can see Jack Hobbs is rated 99 and considered most likely to win.

Runs, Wins, Places & Prize Money

Not all racecards will feature this kind of information but it's fairly self-explanatory and a handy reference to the background and career of each horse.

Trainer & Owner

You'll always find these two pieces of info listed on a racecard. Identifying an in-form trainer or one that has a good record at a particular course can be a good way to pick a winner.

Other things to look out for

  • Distance – races can be run over a short distance (under a mile) up to several miles. Many horses will find a distance that suits them and stick to running only in races run around that trip. It is often a good idea to concentrate on those horses that have proven form over the distance of the race.
  • Going – some horses prefer different types of ‘going’ – the ground conditions. Some horses prefer softer ground (where the going may be ‘soft’ or ‘heavy’) and some prefer harder ground (‘good’ to ‘firm’).

Anything I've missed? If so let us all know in the comments section below.

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