Improving your race-reading ability

Horse racing is front and centre on the sporting stage this summer with lots of high-class action looming up. Whether you are a regular racegoer or a casual fan of the ‘sport of kings’ it is vital to engage with as much of the available information as possible before having a bet.

Here we’ll mark your card with some top tips to consider before enjoying an afternoon of racing.


Sandown Park 026 3×2” (CC BY 2.0) by Ronnie Macdonald

Form  

How has the horse done in its most recent outings? The form gives the biggest clues as to how each horse may perform. The most recent form is key, as these animals tend to hold their form. When they get on a roll, it can be worth following them. You can also look back to see how each horse has performed previously when returning from a layoff or on its first run of the season, as some horses tend to do best when they are fresh.

Course

Course form can be one of the most reliable yardsticks. Horses, like people, can develop an affinity with a particular place. It is often the case that a horse will save its very best form for one particular track. In these instances, they can be marked up notably when running at that venue.

Weight

Weight is used to balance the chances of horses with differing levels of ability in handicap races. In a perfect world, the handicapper is attempting to give every horse an equal chance. Pay attention to changing weights when horses are meeting regularly. Every pound a horse carries can make a difference.

Ground

The ‘going’ is key in all races and is on any checklist for a racegoer. Look at the going description for the race meeting before studying form. Certain horses go best when they get their optimum conditions underfoot, whereas others may be equally at home on any ground from firm to soft. Identifying these trends can be vital.


Thunder Strike” (CC BY 2.0) by monkeywing

Trainers

Look closely at the form of the trainer. When they are in good form, it tends to be the case that many horses from the same yard are in peak condition. Look for the trainers’ recent strike-rate to see if they are doing well. Equally, when a trainer is enduring a cold streak, it might be time to tread carefully.

Jockeys

As with any elite sportsperson, a jockey is at their best when confidence is high. Winning races breeds confidence in jockeys and the saying ‘make hay when the sun shines’ rings true as they can often rack up a good sequence of winners. A jockey in good form is almost always one to keep in mind for your horse racing betting options.

Preliminaries

Whether you are at the races live or watching on television, take the chance to assess the horses during the preliminaries (parade ring, behind the stalls, etc.). If a horse looks to be over-eager – sweating, on its toes, unruly – this can be a drain on vital energy before the race even starts. Listen carefully to the expert pundits on television as former jockeys can be key in identifying when a horse may be negatively impacting on its chances during the preliminaries.

With all of this in mind, whether you’re a seasoned fan needing a refresher or watching your very first race, you should be able to read your cards with ease. Now you will be able to make the most and know what to look out for when watching a race.

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