When it comes to horse racing 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.

So in today's masterclass, and with the help of our resident racing tipster, I'm going to teach you how to read a race card as well as understand all the abbreviations thoroughbred racing.

If you already enjoy a little wager on a horse race, then there is no harm in refreshing your knowledge off track.

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.

Fun Fact: You may often hear the phrase “thoroughbred racing”. This reasons to the thoroughbred bread of horse which is typically used in racing.

Form – What does horse form numbers mean?

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 those form numbers 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.

Horse 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 these 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 its 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 units 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.


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.


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.

What does Nap mean?

In horse racing, NAP generally indicates the tipsters best bet of the day.

What does (AW) next to a racecourse name mean?

This refers to the type of racetrack. Known as All-Weather or AW, these types of tracks are Polytrack, Fibresand & Tapeta instead of turf. The most common AW racetrack in the UK is Kempton Park.

Here is an article explaining the difference.

Live Coverage & Streaming

  • ATR: At The Races is a British television channel that provides live coverage of horse racing events, as well as other racing-related programming.
  • CH4: Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster that occasionally provides live coverage of horse racing events, such as the Grand National.
  • RUK: Racing UK is a British subscription-based television channel that provides live coverage of horse racing events, as well as other racing-related programming.
  • RTE: RTE (Raidió Teilifís Éireann) is the Irish national broadcaster that occasionally provides live coverage of Irish horse racing events.
  • ITV: ITV Racing is the main channel for live coverage of horse racing events in the UK, it provides coverage of most of the major horse racing events including the Cheltenham festival and the Grand National.
  • ITV4: ITV4 is a British free-to-air television channel that occasionally provides live coverage of horse racing events, as well as other racing-related programming.

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’).
  • Jockey and trainer combination: Look at the horse's jockey and trainer's recent records. A jockey or trainer with a high win rate is a good sign.
  • Class of the race: the class of the race refers to the level of competition and the prize money. Higher-class races tend to attract better horses.

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

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