For those who head to the races on a regular basis, reading the horse racing form has become second nature. But what about those of you who don’t know your PU from your F? Just how exactly do you read the horse racing form and can it help you make better betting decisions?

I’m going to take you through what all of the various shorthand means. So the next time you open the paper or go online you will be able to make sense of it all.

Reading An Online Horse Racing Form


I’ve just grabbed a screenshot of a race taking place today. As you can see there is quite a lot of information on it. But thankfully, it is all well spaced out so it is easy enough to read.

Starting from left to right, across the top we have the abbreviations of what each column represents. The first section indicates the Number of the horse (No.) and its Form which I will get to later.

Next, we have ‘Horse‘ which is simply the horse’s name. That is followed by the current age of the horse. Following on from that is WGT which means the weight the horse will carry.

In non-handicapped races, such as the Gold Cup, most horses will be on the exact same weight. In handicapped races, the weights will differ with the best horse on the heaviest weight. This is designed to create as level a playing field as possible.

Underneath WGT is OR. This means Official Rating and it is updated each week by the British Horseracing Authority. The better the horse, the higher the rating.

Next, we have the columns for the Jockey and Trainer and this is to show you who will be riding the horse and who trains the horse.

Finally, we have TS which stands for ‘Top Speed’ which indicates how fast a horse can run, and RPR which is the Racing Post Rating. This is different from the OR in that the RPR takes into account how well a horse will run in the specific conditions of the race. It is calculated independently and on the day of the race.

Reading The Columns

Now that we know what each of the columns mean, let’s go through the information in each of them.

Online you can generally sort the columns simply by clicking on their heading. The horses will be numbered from 1 all the way through to however many are running in the race. In a handicapped race such as the Grand National 2021, the runner with number 1 is the highest-rated horse in the race. It will also carry the heaviest weight.

Each horse will then be numbered in descending order based on their rating and weight. In a non-handicapped race, they are numbered based on the alphabetical order of the horse’s name.

Underneath the number is form. This is the shorthand for where the horse finished in its last few races. You read it from right to left.

If a runner has form that reads: /5P9-5, that means in its most recent race it finished 5th. The ‘‘ means the end of last season and the beginning of this one. So last season, in its final race, this horse finished 9th. The ‘P’ in the race before that means the horse pulled-up and didn’t finish the race. And before that, he finished 5th.

Form gives you a really good idea of how a horse is running over a longer period of time. The better the numbers, the better the horse has performed.

Moving across to age, this is very straightforward, it is how old the horse is. Some races suit horses of different ages, but it really is race dependant.

We’ve already covered weight and the OR works the same way. The higher the Offical Rating the better the horse. An OR is issued once a horse has run three times.

Other than the trainer or jockey’s name, the only thing to look out for is an ‘allowance’. Also known as a ‘claim’, if a jockey is an apprentice, conditional or amateur and is learning the job, they are given less weight on their horse.

They can claim different amounts depending on their experience.

Apprentices:

– 7lb until they have won 20 races;

– 5lb until they have won 50 races;

– 3lb until they have won 95 races.

Conditionals:

– 7lb until they have won 20 races;

– 5lb until they have won 40 races;

– 3lb until they have won 75 races

The TS of a horse is generally found in the Racing Post online cards. The ratings are calculated by comparing the time it took for a horse to finish a race. This figure will then be compared to the racing posts standard time for that course and adjusted by a few factors such as distance, going, weight carried etc…

Racing Form Abbreviations

When you are reading the actual form of a horse there are other shorthand terms to learn.

Pulled-Up – P or PU. This is when a horse runs but doesn’t finish the race because the jockey decides it is better to finish the race early.

Refused To Race – R or RR. A horse gets to the starting line and simply refuses to start the race.

Fall– F. A horse runs in the race but falls at one of the obstacles.

Brought Down – BD. This is when a horse bumps with a falling horse and is then in turn brought down at a fence.

The numbers – if you see 0 (zero) this means the horse finished 10th or worse. Otherwise, the single numbers are the exact position of where the runner finished.

In general, most racecards and form will follow all of the above. Of course, some bookmakers or racing websites will have their own slight variations. They won’t tend to deviate too much so as long as you follow the guide above you should be able to read any horse racing form on any racing card.