How to read a racecard

May 16, 2017

You’ve arrived at the racecourse and are soaking up the atmosphere. You feel as though you have got the best seat in the house as the horses go down to the start for the first race. All you need to do now is find a winner or two to make it a perfect day! 

You open the racecard and your excitement suddenly turns to trepidation as you look at the mass of information alongside each runner in the race! Your first instinct is to pick a name you like or a jockey you’ve heard of…or even the prettiest colours? Don’t panic! Help is at hand. We have put together this easy guide to de-mystify your racecard plus a few handy hints to help you pick a winner.




(Photo credit: Jockey Club) 


The “form comment” highlighted in the graphic provides a brief summary of the horse’s previous form. The actual form figures or previous performances are listed for the horse’s last six races. A hyphen separates last season’s form from its most recent racecourse appearances.

Take a note of the number of days since the horse last ran, provided in brackets immediately after the name on the racecard. Horses can win after a long absence but a recent run usually guarantees that it is fit enough to do itself justice.

The key factors here are whether it has won over the distance of today’s race and on what ground. Horses that have been winning on firm ground may not be as effective on soft ground, and vice versa. 

The draw is another factor to consider, particularly in large fields. Any draw advantage will be highlighted in the racecard or will become evident during the day’s racing.

You may initially be baffled by the “BHA Rating” but this is simply the official British Horse Association rating for each horse. In simple terms, every racehorse is given a rating that is converted to weight carried in handicap races in order to give each horse an equal chance of winning.

For example, a horse with a BHA rating of 100 would carry 1lb more than a horse rated 99 in a handicap race (ignoring penalties or allowances). In theory, a horse rated 90 should not beat a horse rated 100 in a non-handicap race. Of course it does not always work out that way!

Below the list of horses in the racecard, there are notes on the various headgear worn by the runners. Blinkers and hoods are more common in handicap races. These are most significant when it indicates that a horse is wearing them for the first time as this can bring about improvement.

The sheepskin cheek pieces are not just to make the horse look pretty! They are not as restrictive as blinkers and are intended to help the horse concentrate when challenged by its rivals. If you are still undecided, the betting forecast, race summary and 1-2-3 forecast are there to steer you in the right direction.

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