Educational guide to reading a form guide

If you want to make an informed selection of your own in the hope of backing the right horse, then you will need to learn how to read a form guide. There are of course other ways of picking a winner. You can pick a horse because of its name, or its colours, or because you are enticed by the odds it is paying. You could also choose to sign up to a free horse racing tipping service and at least read why the experts believe a certain horse will win. All this is fine, but there is nothing like the feeling of reading the form, making an informed selection of your own and seeing it salute. If this sounds like you, you need to know how to read a form guide!


There are many free form guides available online and in the print media. All form guides vary ever so slightly but the fundamentals are the same. In order to explain how to read a form guide, we will use the free Centrebet form guide as an example because it is free and easy to use. There are plenty of other free providers including Racing Victoria. The shot is to find one you are comfortable viewing.


The image below shows a real life example of a form guide for a real race – the Group 1 William Reid Stakes at Moonee Valley. We will focus on the form for horse number 1 – Hay List.


The information in blue type across the top of the form guide tells you about the race in which the horse will run:

Race 6 – is the race number of the meet

Track – tells you which race track the race will be held at

Date – the day the meet will be held

The information in white type directly below the blue type is very important. This tells you about the distance, scale and class of the race:

Race Time – the time the race will be held

Distance – the distance of the race

Class – Tells you the quality of the race. In this case G1 stands for Group 1 – the highest quality race around. Every horse will carry the same weight in the race, which means that the race is a weight for age (wfa) race. Horses carry weight based on their age. So the class of the race is Group 1 wfa. Being the highest quality race, it takes the best horse to win the race making Group 1 wfa races the hardest to win.

The explanation of each of the items in the form guide flows from the left column to the right:

No. – this is the saddle cloth number for the horse. The top weight always has no. 1, if there are equal top weights then prize money determines who is allotted the lower number

Horse – this is the name of the horse “Hay List”

Trainer – this is the person who is responsible for training the horse

Jockey – this is the person who will ride the horse

Bar. – the horse’s barrier. The barrier is the gate from which the horse will start. The inside barrier is 1

Wgt – this is the weight the horse will carry and includes the jockey’s weight

AS – this tells you what type of horse Hay List is and how old he is. 6G means 6yo gelding

Days – the number of days since the horse’s last race

API – Average prize money the horse wins per race

Career – represents the horse’s total career race results. 22:15, 5, 0 means the horse has had 22 starts for 15 wins, 5 second places and 0 third places

P% – the % that the horse finishes in the first 3 placegetters

Last 6 – shows the horse’s last 6 starts. The number on the left shows where the horse finished in its 6th last start, the number on the right shows where the horse finished in its last start.



When you click on the horse “Hay List” you will be presented with more detailed information about the horse. Again, the example is taken from the Centrebet form guide.


Sire / Dame – this represents the horses breeding or blood lines

Silks – are simply the coloured silks to be worn by the horse’s jockey

Prize – equals total prize money won by the horse throughout their career

Win Dist. – tells you the distances the horse has won over. In this case 1000 (6) means that Hay List has won 6 races over 1000m, 7 over 1200m and 2 over 1400m

The information within the white border tells you more specific information about the horse’s previous wins in relation to the race in which it is about to run ie. Group 1 WFA over 1000m at Moonee Valley:

Track 2: 2, 0, 0 – means that Hay List has had 2 starts at Moonee Valley for 2 wins

Distance 10: 7, 0, 0 – shows the Hay List has had 10 starts over 1000m for 7 wins, 0 seconds and 0 thirds

T/D – The horse’s record at this track over this distance

The next 5 pieces of information all refer to the condition of the racetrack. Some horses handle wet ground where others don’t, some excel in wet ground and some need a bit of give in the ground in order to run at their best.

Fast – the fastest track condition possible

Good – a fair dry track with slight give in the ground. Hay Lists record in the good is as shown is 12 : 10, 0, 0 meaning he has won 10 times and finished 2nd once from 12 starts on a good track

Dead – usually a fair track with plenty of give

Slow – a wet track, not all horses will handle the going

Heavy – a very wet track

The next 3 pieces of information relate to the performance of the horse on return from a spell in the paddock:

1st Up – First run back from a spell. The horse will be fresh

2nd Up – Second run back from a spell, the 5: 5, 0, 0 means that from 5 starts Hay List has won all 5 races

3rd Up – less common statistic, 3rd run back from a spell

The 5 rows below the text in the border show information from the horse’s 5 most recent runs, including barrier trials (not all form guides will have information for barrier trials). A barrier trial is an unofficial race where the horse might have a run to improve fitness before commencing a campaign.


We now take a more detailed look at the information contained in the form guide for a specific race. In this case, we are looking at Hay List’s performance in the Group 1 Newmarket Handicap at Flemington. The information is taken from the free Centrebet free form guide.


21 – number of days since the horse last raced

1 – 22 – the position the horse came in relation to the field. In this case, Hay List ran 1st out of a field of 22

0.1 – is the winning margin, by how far Hay List beat the second placed horse.

Sat 10/3/2012 – the date the race was run

FLEM – the track where the race was run

Good – the condition of the track

OPEN 1 – the class of the race, in this case Group 1 – the highest class
1200 = the distance of the race (1200m)

G Schofield 14 – the jockey that rode the horse. The 14 represents the barrier from which the horse started the race

58.5 – the weight that the horse carried, this is very important

L: 50.0 – the minimum weight limit for the race. So the lightest runner only carried 50 kilograms

11-4F – the odds for the horse (11-4) equates to decimal odds of $3.75. The ‘F’ means that the horse started favourite, or in other words was the most fancied runner in the field

1:08.72 – the time that the race was won in

(34.18) – the time it took the horse in question to run the last 600m of the race

2 Buffering 54.5 (8) – Information about the horse that ran 2nd. The name of the horse was Buffering, who carried 54.5kgs and started from barrier 8.

3 Foxwedge 50.0 (16) – Information about the horse that ran 3rd. The name of the horse was Foxwedge, who carried 50.0 kgs and started from barrier 16

Bal up 3rd / 4th centre, paired off final furlong, bobbed ahead – this is a general comment about how the horse ran the race and in what position it travelled during the race. Hay List settled about 3rd or 4th, pulled away in the final 200m (furlong) with the 2nd horse and just won the race in a bobbing finish.



It is important to understand the relationship between weight and margin. The margin is the distance the horse won by, or the distance the horse was from the winner. The margin is conveyed in lengths, as in the length of the horse.

As a general guide, 1 length is equivalent to 1.5kgs in weight. So if a horse loses by 2 lengths, it would theoretically need a 3kg weight turnaround to get close to the horse. However, the length of the race can also affect the weight scale. The longer the race, the more impact the weights have.


Understanding how to read a form guide can seem like a big task at first, especially considering you should try and look closely at the horse’s performance for its last few starts. Then you need to compare that information against the other horses in the race.

However, after time you will get quicker and quicker at reading the form and you will become more confident with your tipping. Best of luck from the team at How to Bet on Horses!