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. It is one of the thrills of horse racing betting!

Select a form guide provider

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 Racing.com form guide as an example because it is free and easy to use. There are plenty of other free providers, including many betting sites that now offer free form guides, the key is to find one you are comfortable viewing.

How to read a form guide – A real race example

The image below shows a real life example of a form guide for a real race – the 2019 Group 1 Orr Stakes at Caulfield. We will focus on the form for horse number 2 – Redkirk Warrior.

Form guide from 2019 Orr Stakes

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

  • Date – the day the meet will be held
  • Track – tells you which race track the race will be held at
  • Race 8 – is the race number of the meet

The C.F. Orr Stakes heading next to the race number is the name of the race, below it, is information on 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 “Redkirk Warrior”
  • (10) – the horse’s barrier. The barrier is the gate from which the horse will start. The inside barrier is 1.
  • Trainer – this is the person who is responsible for training the horse
  • Jockey – this is the person who will ride the horse
  • Wgt – this is the weight the horse will carry and includes the jockey’s weight
  • Rating – this is the official rating of the horse’s past performances
  • Last 5 – shows the horse’s last 5 starts. The number on the left shows where the horse finished in its 5th last start, the number on the right shows where the horse finished in its last start.

More detailed form guide information

The next image shows more detailed information on the runner we are focusing on, Redkirk Warrior.

horse racing form guide

  • Career – represents the horse’s total career race results. 21:8, 2, 0 means the horse has had 21 starts for 8 wins, 2 second places and 0 third places
  • Prize money – The total prize money the horse has won
  • Season – Its performances this current season
  • Group & Listed – The performance of the horse in all Group and Listed races
  • 1st up – The horse’s performance when first up from a spell
  • 2nd up – The horse’s performance when second up from a spell
  • 3rd up – The horse’s performance when third up from a spell

The next six 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.

  • Firm – the fastest track condition possible
  • Good – a fair dry track with slight give in the ground. Redkirk Warrior’s record in the good is shown as 18 : 8, 1, 0 meaning he has won 8 times and finished 2nd once from 18 starts on a good track
  • Soft – usually a fair track with plenty of give
  • Heavy – A very wet track
  • Jumps – A jumps race
  • Synthetic – A synthetic turf track

Form guide – Specific information

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 Redkirk Warrior’s performance at his previous start.

horse racing form guide detailed information

  • 5 – 10 – Indicates the position the horse finished in the race, in this case, Redkirk Warrior was 5th out of a 10 horse field
  • Redkirk Warrior (GB) (8) – The horse’s name, GB tells us that the horse was born in Great Britain and (8) is the barrier that the horse started from.
  • T.D.A. Hayes / J. R. Bayliss – The first name is that of the trainer, the second name, in this instance J.R. Bayliss, is the jockey that rode the horse in this race.
  • MV R7 – The track, eg. Moonee Valley and the race number of the card.
  • 25 Jan 19 – The date of the race
  • Good 3 – The condition of the track
  • 200k – The total prize money on offer in the race
  • G2 AUST STAKES – The class and name of the race
  • 58.5 – The weight that the horse carried, this is very important
  • 10th / 8th – The horse’s position in the field at the 800m mark, then at the 400m mark
  • 2.2L – The margin in lengths that the horse was beaten
  • 116 – The rating applied to the horse’s performance in that race
  • Comment icon – Hovering over the icon will display a brief description of the horse’s performance. This is important and can divulge information not contained in the statistics. In this case the comment tells us that ‘drifted back to the tail, hooked out wide on the turn, ran on well, good return’.
  • $13 SP – The odds that the horse started at

Important information

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.

Form guide overview

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. Don’t forget to select the best value betting product for your selection. Pair up your new found expertise with some bookmaker sign up bonuses and you’re sure to derive more enjoyment from the races. Best of luck from the team at How to Bet on Horses!

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