Guide on How to Read Horse Racing Cards

If you want to bet on horse racing, you’ll need to get to grips with horse racing cards. But on first glance they can be confusing.

Yet, they don’t have to be. With our guide on how to read horse race cards, you’ll find out everything you need to know. We’ll run through what the numbers mean and how to look at the form, plus plenty more.

Race Card Components

Horse racing cards are made up of the following components:

Jockey Colours

These are the colours of the silks the jockey wears on the horse. They correspond to the owner’s colours.

Horse Number

The number the horse wears in the race. This will be displayed on their saddle cloth during the race, and is usually located on the far left of the race card.

Horse Colour

This is simply the colour of the horse. You’ll see the following horse colour types on your race card:

–          b – bay

–          bl – black

–          br – brown

–          ch – chestnut

–          gr – grey

–          r – rig

–          ro – roan

–          wh – white

Horse Name

The name of the horse. Whilst this obviously has no bearing on their form and chances of winning, many people like to pick their horse on name alone – especially in races like the Grand National.

Days Since Last Race

You’ll see this number in brackets after the horse’s name. This helps you to understand whether a horse is fit and well or if it’s coming back from injury. For example, 15 days since the last race suggests a horse that is running regularly. A three figure number will likely indicate time out due to an injury or potentially a loss of form.

Horse’s Form

This is arguably the most important thing to understand on a race card. The form tells you how each horse has performed in its previous six outings.

You should read the form from left to right, so the number on the furthest right represents each horse’s most recent race. Each number corresponds to the position the horse finished in.

–          Numbers 1-9 are where the horse finished in the race

–          Number 0 indicates the horse finished outside the first 9

–          A “–“ symbol separates racing seasons

–          An “/” symbol indicates a longer gap – this could be if the horse has missed an entire season

You may also see some letters here too, which indicate other potential outcomes in previous races. The main ones you’ll see include:

–          F: Fell

–          R: Refused

–          BD: Brought down by another runner

–          U/UR: Unseated its jockey

You might also see:

–          C: Won on that course before

–          D: Won over that distance before

–          CD: Won over the course and distance

–          BF: Beaten favourite

Horse’s Age

This is often displayed to the right of the horse’s name. It can be useful, but it’s not always essential knowledge. Some races are only open to horses of certain ages.

Horse’s Weight

The horse’s weight is shown in a basic format such as 11-4. This means that the horse weighs 11 stone, 4 pounds. You’ll also see the OR weight, which is the weight the horse has to carry, i.e. the weight of the jockey, plus any additional weight in the saddle etc. The higher the OR the more weight the horse has to carry.


This is the jockey that will ride the horse in the race.


The name of the horse’s trainer, plus their nationality.

Dam’s Sire, Dam and Sire

This is all about the horse’s breeding and its heritage. It breaks down as follows:

–          Dam’s sire: The father of the horse’s mother

–          Dam: The mother of the horse

–          Sire: The father of the horse

Horse’s Owner(s) and Breeder(s)

The owners could be a single person, an organisation or a syndicate. The breeder is simply the name of the horse’s breeder.

Types of Horse Races

There are two main types of horse races in Britain, jumps and Flat – both have different classes and types within each.


You guessed it, Flat races are run on flat courses with no jumps. They include:

–          Classics: The most prestigious Flat races in Britain. The five classics are the 2,000 Guineas, 1,000 Guineas, Oaks, Derby, St. Leger.

–          Group Races: Some of the most well-known and best races. Group 1 are the highest level followed by 2 and 3.

–          Listed Races: A step down from Group races.

Jumps Races

These are also called National Hunt races and can be split into five categories:

–          National Hunt Flat Races: Also called bumpers, where no obstacles are jumped – the races are commonly seen as a building block for a career over fences or hurdles.

–          Novice hurdling: For horses that begin the season not having won a hurdles race.

–          Hurdles: Where the horses compete over hurdles.

–          Novice chasing: For horses that begin the season not having won a race over fences.

–          Chasing: Where horses compete over fences.

Races are also graded and listed in the same way as Flat races. Some of the most illustrious races in the calendar are Grade 1 including the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Champion Hurdle.

Betting on Horse Racing

Let’s look at the types of bets you can make and some tips to help your betting.

Types of Bets

If you want to bet on horse racing, you’ll need to know the types of bet you can make. They include:

–          Win bet: Backing a horse to win.

–          Place bet: Backing a horse to finish in the top places – usually the top three or four.  

–          Each way bet: Combing two bets into one – a win bet and a place bet. You’ll pay double the stake but you’ll win both bets if your horse comes in first.

–          Double bet: A bet on the outcome of two races.

–          Treble bet: A bet on the outcome of three races.

–          Accumulator bet: A bet on the outcome of four or more races.   

–          Straight forecast bet: A bet on which horses will come first and second in a race, and in which exact order.

–          Reverse forecast bet: A bet on which horses will come first and second in a race, but in any order.

–          Tricast bets: A bet on which horses will come first, second and third in a race, and in which order.

To understand more about the different types of horse racing bets, check out our helpful guide to horse racing betting.

Tips for Betting on Horse Racing

Betting on horse racing is so much more than just picking the name of the horse you like – although you’ll be surprised how many people do that for the Grand National. Some of our top tips include:

–          Study the form: Looking at how well horses have performed in recent races gives you a good indication of how they may do in this race. Also look at past performances over this distance and on this course.

–          Consider experience: Don’t automatically discount older horses. A few more races in the legs could be all the experience they need.

–          Look at the opinions of experts: Check out tips and predictions from the experts in the lead up to a race. You never know you could find an outsider with plenty of value in the odds.

–          Don’t always back the favourite: You may be tempted to go for the favourite in the Grand National for example. But with such a difficult race to predict, it’s not always the favourite that finishes first past the post. You can definitely find value further in the field, so use the race card to your advantage.

–          Get to know the course and the race: Understanding the type of race and the implications of a certain course can help you effectively plan your betting.

–          Look at the trainer: Has this trainer had big success in this race or on this course? Could they do it again?

For more horse racing tips, check out our guide to horse racing.


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