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Horse Racing Form

Horse Racing Form - Introduction

The most important thing to grasp about the form of horse races is that you have to understand how to read the form book. There are many factors involved in understanding form but if you appreciate what they are then you will be at a huge advantage compared to the majority, who still think its just "luck" who wins the race. No one would seriously think it was "luck" who won say the London Marathon, especially when you have a handful of specialists who are so far ahead of the rest of the field, no one else has much of a chance

Horse Racing Form - Class Of Course

There are 59 Race Courses in the UK and they can be rated in difficulty from A to D. Places like Ascot, Newmarket and York are A's whereas Southwell and Wolverhampton are D's. In assessing form we have to take account of the Class of Course when looking at how a horse ran in the past. So a horse that came to a place previously at say a Class D course can't be expected to reproduce that form at a Class B course - like for example at Doncaster. A simple rule of thumb therefore is to ask wether a horse has achieved place form, or was only beaten by a few lengths, at the class of course we are running at today

Horse Racing Form - Class Of Race

Races are divided into a variety of Classes. These range from A to G in the case of Flat Racing and A to H in the case of Jump Racing In addition there is a higher class of racing still in Listed Races and Group Races. Over Jumps, Group Races are called Graded Races. No doubt it all sounds a bit complicated!! If you want more infomation then please consult my ebook on the subject. The important thing to appreciate is that as you rise up the Class of Race, the oposition gets better, so you need stronger form to win. Equally if a horse has only been placed at a lower class of race to todays event then its unlikely that its previous form will be reproduced

Horse Racing Form - Lengths Beaten

The number of lengths by which a horse has been beaten give us a more accurate guide to the form of a horse than merely the place it achieved. To take a simple example - suppose a horse comes sixth in its previous race - you might assume that since it could not even get a place in its last race, its unlikely to win in the future. However, particularly on the flat where a big bunch of horses cross the finishing line together, a horse might come sixth but only be 3 or 4 lengths away from the winner. There are many races where a horse fails to "trouble the judge" but may only have been 2 lengths short!! Consider this the other way round - suppose a horse comes 2nd in its last race but was 10 lengths short. Obviously its better to look at the lengths beaten than the mere place achieved. It should however be noted that jockeys have a habit of easing a horse down if they think their chance of winning has gone and the distance between them and the next horse back is too far for them not to get a place. This has the effect of exaggerating the lengths beaten!!

Horse Racing Form - Distance

The Distance over which a race is be run is an important factor to consider in assessing the previous form of a horse. Horses are bred to be effective at certain distances and outside these distances, while they may not necessarily run badly, they wont be running to their optimum performance - so dont be surprised if they lose. Trainers also use this fact to fool the handicaper into giving a horse a lower weight than might otherwise be the case!!

Distances fall into 5 main categories:

  • Sprints - 5F-7F
  • Milers - 8F-9F
  • Middle Distance - 1M2F to 2M
  • Stayers - 2M-3M
  • Long Distance - 3M+

Horse Racing Form - Course Specialists

Some horses run best at certain courses - hence the maxim "Horses for courses!!". Its a simple fact of life that some courses lend themselves to course specialists. Examples would include some but not all of the top courses e.g. Ascot and Cheltenham and also some querky courses like Lingfield when running on turf etc. For more information consult my Ebook "Learning to Find Winners". If a horse is a course specialist then given reasonable recent form there's a good chance the horse will win when switched back to its favourite course

Horse Racing Form - Weight Carried

The weight a horse has to carry as assessed by the handicapper can be a significant factor in the likely performance of a horse. In general the lower weight a horse has to carry the greater advantage it will have especially in a non-handicap and especially over longer distances or soft going. However weight is also a measure of the ability of a Horse and therefore Horses lower in the weights may not have the ability to win. Horses that are carrying 12St or more are exceptional animals, because these horses are really at the top of their form and the handicapper has 'run out of extra weight' to give them. Equally horses at the bottom of the handicap who are actually out of the handicap altogether - known as the long handicap - rarely capitalise on their low weight

Horse Racing Form - Prize Money

The Prize Money of a previous race can give a reasonable clue as to the value of the form achieved in that race. The Prize Money varies with the class of race and also with the meeting - so different races of the same class may attract different amounts of prize money. The lower the prize money in a race the lower the predictablility of the outcome. This is because its much easier to win a race at the 1,500 mark than the 10,000 mark

Horse Racing Form - Jockey And Trainers

The Trainer/Jockey combination can be an important factor in the outcome of a race. Trainers want to do well so that they can attract more horses and more owners to their stables. Trainers are top professionals at what they do and many of the best trainers seek out the best horses to buy/ breed and maintain many horses - some into the hundreds!! When a trainer thinks a horse is ready for a win they will make sure they have a top jockey on board. They will book a jockey sometimes months in advance and they will often switch jockeys when the horse is just going for a run rather than a win Trainers will often plug for an good apprentice jockey because of the allowance it gives them. Apprentice jockeys are allowed anything from 3lb to 13lb off the weight a horse is set to carry. Basically the allowance drops as the apprentice rides winners. After they have won approximately 95 races they lose thier allowance alltogether. Any apprentice who has an allowance of up to 5lb is worth looking at carefully especially if they have a reasonable strike rate The Strike Rate of some of the smaller trainers is also worthy of note. If a trainer has a strike rate of 20% or more, even if they are not in the top 10 for a meeting, they should be watched!!

Horse Racing Form - The Odds

The Odds given in the forecast can be a reasonable guide to the chance of a horse winning a race. Horses that are in the first five of the forecast usually win 99% of the time - i.e. the likely winner will be in the first five of the forecast. A horse which is assessed as being 2/1 or less should be regarded as a strong favourite. Its worth understanding what the odds mean!! The odds are essentially a ratio - 2/1 therefore means the horse is expected to win once in three runs: 7/2 means the horse will win twice in 9 runs: 4/11 means the horse is expected to win 11 times in 15 runs etc

Horse Racing Form - Handicaps V Non-Handicaps

Its important to understand the difference between a Handicap and a Non-Handicap - also called a conditions race. In a Handicap, the weights each horse is set to carry, are adjusted by the Official Handicapper, so as to give each horse an equal chance of winning a race. This means that the weights will reflect the relative form of each horse. As a horse improves - so its weight allocation will increase. Thats the theory at least!! In practice any good trainer will try and hide the true form of a horse and therefore get the most adventageous weight. In a Non-Handicap or Conditions Race, as they are also called, the weight is not adjusted for the form of a horse but rather 'conditions', in terms of weights, are set for the horses entered for the race. There are also other conditions e.g. a Maiden is for horses that have not yet won a race - in this case there is little difference in the weights. The important thing in a conditions race is that because weight carried does not necessarily reflect form a good horse may have drifted down the weights and bad horse may have risen up the weights!! By far the most important rule I would apply to racing is NEVER BACK IN A HANDICAP!! BUT ALWAYS back horses in conditions races which have form in a handicap. If you take previous top rated horses in Handicaps from "The Best Yet" Horse Ratings and back them ONLY WHEN:

  • They are running in CONDITIONS RACES
  • They are dropping significantly in prize money
  • They are dropping in class of race
  • They are dropping in class of course

These horses have an outstanding chance of winning and rarely fail to land the spoils!!

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