Reading A Racecard

To racing newbies, a racecard can be a daunting sight. But to familiar punters, it’s a goldmine of information. Knowing what each part of a race card means is a great way of understanding racing, and it can help you pick a winner or two as well!

Let’s go through how to read one, and fear not experienced race-goers, there are several handy tips for you along the way too.

Racecard from Darling Maltaix’s run in the Summer Plate – for reference purposes.

Jockey Silks

The most eye-catching part of a race card is the silks that the jockeys will be wearing. The silks are all different and represent particular owners, as shown by our gold and white colours next to Darling Maltaix. Owners can have more than one horse in a race, but the silks will vary slightly.

Tip

It’s always worth knowing the first, second and third choice silks for an owner, sometimes that indicate who the owner thinks is their most likely winner if they are in the main silks.

Cloth Number

Starting from left to right, the big number you see is the horse’s number for that race. That number will appear on the horse’s saddle cloth in the parade ring as well as in the race, it allows everyone to see who’s who.

In a handicap, the cloth numbers correlate to the weighting. Horse no.1 will be carrying the most weight, horse no.2 will be carrying the second-most weight and so on.

Name and Country

Next to the cloth number is the name of the horse and where they originally came from, shown in brackets. Most horses are born in Great Britain, Ireland or France, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are still trained there though.

Colour

The first letter on the left beneath the horse’s number is his/her colour. Each letter/s is an abbreviation.

B = Bay, Bl = Black, Ch = Chestnut, Gr = Grey, Br = Brown

Sex

To the right of colour, you will see another letter, which is another abbreviation but this time it is the sex of the horse.

C = Colt – (Male horse which is usually below four years old) 

F = Filly – (Female horse, again, below four years old)

G = Gelding – (Male horse that has been castrated)  

M = Mare – (Female horse that is above four years old) 

Tip

Some races have allowances for fillies and mares so it is important to consider the sex of a horse when making your selection. Those few pounds taken off due to a sex allowance can be crucial. Also, be aware that geldings cannot run in the main classic races, e.g. The Derby and the St Ledger.

Breeding

To the right of that, there are two other names, those are the sire and dam of the horse, in that order. Sometimes you can judge how good a horse will be, especially early on, based on their breeding.

Age

Like in a very one-sided cha-cha slide, look to the right again; that number is the age of the horse. Older horses are more experienced, but the older they get the more unlikely it is that they are in their prime.

Some races are for certain aged horses and some have minor limitations, that information will be at the top of the race card.

Tip

Similarly to sex allowances, the age of a horse can determine how much weight they carry in some races. A runner just being a few pounds lighter than in their last race can lead to big improvements, it’s an important factor that often is forgotten.

Weight

To the right of the age is the weight, displayed as stone-pound. That weight will include the jockey and anything else being carried in the saddlebags. In some races, horses race off of level weights and in other races, like handicaps, how much a runner carries will be determined by their mark, age and sex.

Jockey

In green text is the jockey booking. This can be important in deciding who you want to bet on if you have a favourite/least favourite jockey, or if you have seen one rider is in form that day.

Tip

A jockey’s win percentage at a course can tell you plenty. They may not have mastered a certain tricky track and are probably worth avoiding until their success rate there improves. 

Also, jockey and trainer success rates are important;  if a booking looks out of the ordinary then it could indicate that the trainer is expecting a win that day so acquired the services of the jockey they win with. Plus, how many rides the jockey has on the card is worth noting too; if a top jockey is attending for just one ride then they must think it is worthwhile.

Equipment

Besides the name of the jockey is what extra equipment that the horse will be wearing, though not all horses wear equipment.

Trainer

Beneath the jockey is the name of the trainer, as well as where they are based.

Tip

It’s worth checking how many runners a trainer has at a meeting, as well as where the yard is based. It is unlikely a trainer will send one horse 250-miles to finish outside of the front three, for example.

Owner

Beneath the trainer’s name on the race card is the name of the owner/group of owners.

Breeder

Beneath the name of the owner is the name of the person/s who bred the horse, sometimes this will be the stud they were bred at too.

Sponsor

Underneath the name of the breeder is the sponsor of the horse, which can be a person or a company.

Timeform Rating

Besides the binoculars on the right is a star rating that shows what Timeform rates the chances of the horse. They consider the age, form, weight, distance, etc and compile an overall judgement of how well a horse will do.

A low star rating can look unpromising but you should always make your own choice, not every five-star horse wins.

BHA Rating

To the right of the Timeform rating is the BHA rating. That is the official BHA rating of that horse as decided by the handicappers. That rating goes up and down depending on how well a horse is running and what they have won.

Form

Beneath those ratings is the horse’s form. The numbers from 1-9 show where the horse has finished in their recent races, if they finished outside the top nine then it is shown using a 0. The form is read from right to left, with the most recent run further right.

The form doesn’t always show numbers though, there can be letters that represent different race outcomes too.

B – Brought down, C – Carried out, D – Disqualified, F – Fell, O – Ran out, P – Pulled up, R – Refused to race, S – Slipped over, U – Unseated rider, V – Void race

Tip

Don’t be put off by a runner not finishing their most recent race, for example, make sure you know why something happened before you discount their chances. A horse could be 50-lengths in rear and pull up, they will have a P in their form line, as would another who was badly hampered when looking likely to win but lost his/her chance so was pulled up. Big difference, same letter.

Informative Abbreviations

To the right of the form line, there are letters that provide more information on the horse and their previous races.

C – Horse has won at the course before, D – Horse has won over the same distance as this race before, CD – The horse has won both at this course and over this distance before, BF – The horse was a beaten favourite last time out

Tip

It is always worth checking which courses each horse has run well at previously, there may not be a C next to their form line but they may have recently won at a similar course and have a strong chance.

Timeform View

Beneath the form is a summary of how Timeform thinks the horse will run and how they have raced previously. If you don’t have much time, this can be a good place to look.

Detailed Form

The bottom right of each horse’s section on a race card has a more detailed form line. It shows the date of each race, where it was, what type of race it was, the ground condition and where they finished.

In races where the horse lost, the winner of that race is named and how far in front of the selection they were; if they won then it shows the name of the horse who came second and by what distance.