How to Read a Racecard: The Definitive Guide

How to Read a Racecard: The Definitive Guide

Are you one of the racegoers or punters who wants to learn more about the horses competing in Sport of Kings?

If yes, it is the final time to get familiarised with the essential step – how to read a racecard.

But what exactly is it, and how can it help you?

Let’s begin!

What is a Racecard Bet?

This card lists all the information you need to know about each horse in the race, including its form, weight, jockey, and trainer.

So, if you want to place a bet on a horse, you’ll need to find a racecard. 

And the next step is the most important one – learn HOW TO READ it.

The advantages of knowing how to read a racecard are:

  • a better perspective of the course of the race
  • higher odds of winning while horse betting.

You will be ready to take the bet when you learn to read it and calculate the horse racing odds!

How to read a racecard?

Reading a racecard can be daunting if you’re new to horse racing.

But don’t worry! It’s NOT as complicated as it looks. 

Let’s make you a pro in horse racecards readings without further ado. 

We will use a real example of an online UK horse racing card and explain what everything in it means. 

Source Sporting Life

The length of the race is 1m 2f furlongs and is called the One Night of Queen 2nd June.
The type of this particular race is an Apprentice Handicap race.
The race will be with horses older than 4 years old, and the total number of contestants will be 10.
The race is on Polytrack, and it is class 6.

Source Sporting Life

Cloth Number and Stall Number

The cloth number is put on the horse’s saddlecloth during the race. As you can see in the example, the cloth number of the horse named Sammy Sunshine is 1.

The stall number is NOT always given.

It shows the starting stall or gate of the horse and is usually used in Flat racing.


Right next to the cloth number on the race card are the colours of the jockey’s uniform and this is called “silk”.

In our example, the silk is black and orange.

If you notice that the colour of the cap is different, it means that one person is the owner of more than one racing horse. 

Form of the Horse

The form of the horse is shown in a combination of numbers and letters. They are written next to or underneath the horse’s name. The complex-looking horse’s form will give you the history of the horse for his previous race, including the position he has finished in.

Here is how you can read the form of the horse. 

The first rule is to start reading from the left and going to the right. The last numbers on the right show the horse’s performance in the most recent run.  

Moreover, a horse that is “out of form” is a racer who can do much better, and the horse’s performance doesn’t show what he is capable of. 

When there is NO form, the horse is new to racing or has participated in only a few races.

The example we provided contains a horse summary which is a few words about the previous performance of the horse and future predictions.

The summary is usually written by bookmakers. 

Jockeys and Trainers

You can find the name of the person who is supposed to ride the horse, the jockey, on the right side of the racecard. Generally, close to the name of the jockey, or below it. 

As for our example, we can see that the jockey and trainer are written below the horse’s name and right next to the horse’s age. So the jockey is Oisin McSweeney, and the trainer is Menzies. 

We can also see a short form “OR,” which means the horse’s official rating is in the same line.

Age and Weight

Right next to the horse’s name or below it, you can see how old the racing horse is. Following the horse’s age, you can see how much weight the horse will carry in a stone-pound format.

The weight is the sum of the jockey’s and the saddlebag’s weight.

So, in the example, the 4-year-old Sammy Sunshine will carry a weight of 9st 8lbs.

Breeds of horses

Before we go to the types of horse races, let us briefly introduce you to the best breeds of horses for horse racing that have one thing in common – speed.

The most popular ones are:

  • Arabian horse
  • Akhal Teke Horse
  • Quarter Horse
  • Andalusian Horse
  • Black Forest Horse

Types of Horse Races in the UK

Flat Racing

Flat racing is the most frequent type of horse racing and takes place on a level track. The horse race distance is between 5 furlongs to 2 miles and 4 furlongs, and it is a no-jump horse race. The horse racers in this type of race are usually starting their career at the age of two. 

Flat racing has different types of races, and some of them are: 

  • Group Races – have the highest reputation in horse racing. They are divided into three groups according to the level of the race, where Group 1 is the top level. The groups usually have age and gender restrictions for the horse. 
  • Listed Races – lower-level races than the Group races.
  • Black Type Races – only horses with high pedigree are the runners. The winner’s name is put in bold black type in the pedigree charts of sales and breeding catalogues.
  • Handicap Races – the horse’s weight during the race depends on their past performance and runs. After the horse passes the rating of 110, it is transferred one class higher to be part of Group or Listed races.
  • Maiden Races – races where all horses that participate haven’t won a race before.
  • Claiming Races – when the race is over, all horses are put for sale for a previously set price.
  • Condition Race – the race when the horse’s weight is based on the race conditions.
  • Apprentice or Conditional Races – races with apprentice or conditional level jockey.
  • Amateur Race – races where the jockey must be an amateur. 

The Classic British Flat Races

It is inevitable to mention the FIVE ELITE RACES in the UK. The Classic British Flat Races or shortly the British classics are the following: 

  • 2 000 Guineas Stakes
  • 1 000 Guineas Stakes
  • Epsom Oaks
  • Epsom Derby and
  • St. Leger Stakes 

National Hunt Racing

National Hunt racing or jump racing is a particular type of race where horses jump over hurdles or fences. It is also known as The Sport of Farmers, and the race distance is between 2 miles and 4.5 miles.

The most common horse jump races are:

  • Hurdle Races – are for horses starting their racing careers. So they have to jump over smaller fences before moving to the larger ones.
  • Graded and Listed Hurdle Races – the highest level races, just like the Group races on the flat. The best hurdle races are  Champion Hurdle, The Stayers Hurdle and The Aintree Hurdle.
  • Handicap Hurdles – races where horses carry weight according to their previous performances and capability
  • Novice Hurdle races – for the racehorses with less experience. It means that they haven’t run over hurdles in the previous horse racing season.

Endurance Racing

Endurance horse racing is a sport where horses race over long distances up to 160km. These races can be extremely gruelling, both for the horse and the rider. 

It is vital to have a physically fit horse with the stamina to run long distances. In addition, the rider must be able to maintain a steady pace and manage the horse’s energy levels through racing out the race.


By taking all of these factors into consideration, you should be able to make a more informed decision about betting on a particular horse.

So, next time you’re at the races, don’t forget to ask the bookies for a racecard and try some of the best horse racing systems.


What do the letters mean in horse racing form?

The letters in horse racing form represent the horse’s recent race results and here is what they mean:

  • P or PU – the horse didn’t finish the race because the jockey pulled it up
  • U or UR – horse unseated its jockey
  • F – horse fell
  • R – horse refused
  • BD – another runner brought the horse down in the last race

How are horses numbered in a race?

The numbers that horses get for a racing range from 1 to 9, and they show the horse’s finishing position in the race. If a horse has the number 0, it means that it wasn’t in the first 9 horses to finish the race.

What do C and D mean in horse racing?

The letters C and D are part of the horse’s form and are usually found after the numbers that show the horse’s finishing position.

If you see a C, the horse has won a race before at the course. As for the letter, D tells you that the particular horse previously won over the same distance.

There is the possibility of a combination of the two where CD indicates that the horse has previously won over the course and distance.

What does BM stand for in horse racing?

The BM in horse racing stands for Benchmark races. They are Handicap horse races based on ratings without upper or lower eligibility limits. So, if you are learning how to read a racecard, the benchmark race is open to all newbie horse racing bettors.

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