Course Form Reading – The Alternative Approach To Finding Winners

I was recently asked if it was possible to find winners by starting with the course conditions. Today I’m going to show you how I would go about doing this.

The reason that this works is because most bettors start by looking at the horses themselves and then they move onto conditions later on. By starting with the course you can highlight horses potential that may have been missed by others.

I’ve chosen the first non-maiden race at the time of writing to use an example in this post, and this is:


We want to make a note that this race is a:

  • Handicap Chase
  • 2 miles 7 furlongs
  • Good To Firm
  • At Worcester race track

These are the course based information. Next we go to the Racing Post’s course information for Worcester and see:


Using the above we make the following notes:

  • A P McCoy has the best jockey strike rate
  • Tom O’Brien has made a flat bet profit
  • Paul Nicholls has the best trainer strike rate and has made a flat bet profit
  • Nicky Henderson has a very strong strike rate
  • Mrs Diana L Whateley has the best owner strike rate, but only a few runs
  • Mrs Gay Smith and J P McManus both have strong strike rates
  • All top five owners have made a flat bet profit

We’ve already got a wealth of information about this course and we haven’t even started to look at the runners yet!

Let’s take a look at them now:


I’m going to start by looking for any that are trained, ridden or owned by people that we noted above.

We find that:

A P McCoy is riding Mission Complete, this horse is also owned by J P McManus

This marks this horse out as a strong possibility being ridden by a jockey we marked out and owned by an owner we marked out.

Next we need to look through each horses past form, but we will start with Mission Complete.

What I’m looking for is performances at Worcester where the runner performed well and then confirmation of whether this horse has performed well over similar ground, race type and distance conditions on other tracks as well.


In the above image you can see that Mission Complete has won once at Worcester and raced competitively placing once there.

There has been one other handicap chase not at Worcester where the horse has performed well confirming that it can perform on this race type.

There has been one other race over the same distance, apart from at Worcester, where the horse won, which indicates that distance shouldn’t be a problem.

There has only been one race on Good To Firm ground and the horse was pulled up but there have been numerous competitive races on good ground which would indicate that he should still be able to perform there.

Overall the indication for this runner is very strong.

We now repeat this process for each runner in the race. You can reduce the amount of time required by focusing only on the top four or five runners in the market. However doing this will mean that you miss out on the occasionally larger priced win.

I shall go through one more runner as an example. This form is for the runner Green Bank who is currently favourite.

This time I’ll also going to mark potential negatives for a horse in blue as well. This can add some extra depth into your analysis.


Looking at this we can see just one red circle indicating a positive and this was in the race at Towcester on the 20th April where the horse came a head from winning in a handicap chase. The next race was also a handicap chase and while not performing as well as we would like would indicate some preference for the race type.

The only two races over Good To Firm ground, circled in blue, have shown poor performances but numerous good races on good ground indicate that there could be other reasons for these poorer performances.

Green Bank has only run once at Worcester and was Pulled Up which isn’t a good sign for the course.

There are no races over the same distance but a number that are only one furlong longer. Although not marked above, only one of these has resulted in a good performance. Whereas races two furlongs longer he has been much more successful indicating a longer distance maybe more preferable.

Overall this runner does not look to be as well suited to this race as Mission Complete even though he is the current favourite.

This approach to form reading will enable you to hone your form reading skills. When you begin you should allow fifteen to twenty minutes to analyse a race properly. But, with practice, you could be doing it in just ten minutes.

Make sure that you choose races where all the runners have a lot of racing history and is on a course, or has race conditions, that you favour.

If you don’t have the time to implement this on a lot of races, just doing it on one a day will make a difference to your betting.

Michael Wilding

Michael started the Race Advisor in 2009 to help bettors become long-term profitable. After writing hundreds of articles I started to build software that contained my personal ratings. The Race Advisor has more factors for UK horse racing than any other site, and we pride ourselves on creating tools and strategies that are unique, and allow you to make a long-term profit without the need for tipsters. You can also check out my personal blog or my personal Instagram account.


  1. A very interesting angle with obvious merit. In this example, I would personally look at the horses’ form only in chases, and probably over only the previous 18 months (12 months on the flat). As usual, Michael, food for thought!


    1. A very good idea to narrow down the horses form to the relevant race type Jack. And, as you say, after 18 months the form becomes significantly less valid.

  2. This is indeed a way to beat the bookies. Specialise on the small “family” courses Ayr, Yarmouth, Carlise to name three recent courses which make my betting profitable. Point-to-points also can be profitable especially if you
    can attend.

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