For those who like to bet on horse racing, the racecard is a crucial read because it contains all the information about the course, each race and the runners. If you are enjoying a day at the races, a racecard is an essential purchase but you can also read the details from the comfort of your home online.
One of the keys to being a successful punter is having as much information to hand as possible and the racecard provides exactly that. Of course, the best bettors know how to distil this data and eliminate useless details but that’s for another day!
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the anatomy of a racecard in order to help familiarise yourself with the course, the runners, the trainers and the riders. Please note that the racecard you receive at the course may differ from online versions. Below, we try to look at everything you’re likely to see regardless of the version.
Above The Card
This part of the racecard features:
- The actual name of the race; an example would be the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
- The Class of the race (Class 4 for example); Group or Grade races feature higher quality horses; the lower the number the better the race. For instance, Grade 1 and Group 1 races feature the cream of the racing crop.
- Race classification requirements; for example, you may see Class 5 (3yo + 0-70). This means every horse in the race is at least 3 years old and has an Official Rating of 70 or less.
Name of Course & Time of Race
This simply lets you know where the races are being run and the time of specific events. You may see the letters AW beside certain tracks (like Southwell). This indicates the course is an All-Weather track.
- Prize Money: The amount of money on offer for the participants. The cash is divided on a sliding scale with the winner obviously getting the lion’s share of the purse. The horse’s ‘connections’ (jockey, trainer, owner etc.) share their winnings.
- Runners: The number of runners in the race.
- Distance: This is the length of the race; there are 8 furlongs in a mile. Research your preferred horse to ensure they perform well over the distance; some horses like speed tests over short distances while others relish tests of stamina over longer distances.
- Going: This describes the ground conditions; this ranges from Hard to Heavy although on artificial surfaces it usually ranges from Fast to Slow.
- Channel: On online racecards such as the Racing Post, you can find out if the race is live on TV. ATR = At The Races, C4 = Channel 4, RUK = Racing UK, RTE = Irish coverage.
The Race Card
Every horse has a number which gets displayed beside the saddle; it is also known as the Saddle Cloth Number. This is probably the easiest method of identifying the horse you’ve backed. Please note the Horse’s Number bears no relation to the Stall Number in which it has been drawn.
However, this number may be an indication of the weight carried by the horse. The horse that has been handicapped with the most weight will often be given the number ‘1’ while the horse with the second most weight is given the number ‘2’ and so on.
This is the starting stall from which the horse will run in but is not used in National Hunt races. However, it can be a critical element over the flat, especially in shorter races. Some racecourses in the UK have a distinct ‘draw bias’ which means horses drawn in certain stalls have a history of being successful.
Every owner needs to have his own colours and the trainer will keep a set in the stable yard. The colours are registered with the British Horseracing Authority and are exclusive to each owner. They are called ‘the silks’ due to the fact they are made from the lightest possible material; this has traditionally been silk although there are modern materials made today.
BHA regulations allow owners to choose between 18 set colours and the colours can be located on any of the body, sleeve and cap designs which can be seen on the official BHA website.
The colours are designed to be distinctive but in the melee that inevitably ensues in races with lots of runners, it can be tough to tell the silks apart. A good tip is to memorise the colour of the jockey’s cap as this may be the only way to identify your horse once the race is in full flow. In races where an owner has more than one runner, the jockeys will have the same colours but different markings on the cap.
Variations include hoops, stars, stripes and spots.
This is clearly displayed on the racecard and should be the most noticeable feature. It isn’t uncommon for casual punters to pick a horse simply because they like the name. I’m guilty of this myself as I once picked a horse called ‘Patrick’ to win a race and incredibly, it did!
On the Racing Post and other online cards you will see letters after the name of the horse:
- CD: Course & Distance winner.
- C: Course winner.
- D: Previously a winner over the distance.
- BF: The horse was a Beaten Favourite in the last race.
- b: The horse is wearing blinkers.
- v: The horse is wearing a visor.
- h: The horse is wearing a hood.
- t: The horse is wearing a tongue-strap.
- p: The horse is wearing sheepskin cheekpieces.
There may also be some comments about the horse relating to past performances and its chances in this race. There may also be a note about how the horse performed in its last race.
This is the horse’s age. There are particular races which only allow horses within a specific age bracket to enter.
Days Since Last Ran
This figure may either appear beside the horse’s name in brackets or else it might be in the row just beneath the horse’s name.
The jockey riding the horse can sometimes make or break your bet. Legendary jockeys such as A.P McCoy have been the toast of many a punter. Even in his last Cheltenham festival in 2015, McCoy produced a stunning ride on Uxizandre to bring his mount home at 16/1 in a ride few jockeys would have been capable of.
Occasionally you will see a number after the jockey’s name; this is an indication of the jockey’s claim. For example if you see Shane Gray 5 it means the jockey’s claim is 5 pounds. As a result, the horse will carry 5 pounds less than it was originally supposed to.
It is extremely important to know who trained the horse for a variety of reasons. While there are world famous names such as Paul Nicholls and Nicky Henderson that are sure to catch the eye, there are particular trainers known for producing winners on certain surfaces or at specific tracks.
Colour of the Horse
The horse’s colour can sometimes help you distinguish it from a distance. On a racecard the colours are abbreviated thusly:
- B = Bay
- BR = Brown
- CH – Chestnut
- GR – Grey
Sex of the Horse
On a typical racecard you may see up to 5 different options:
- Colt: A young male horse less than 4 years old who hasn’t been castrated.
- Horse: An adult male 4+ years old; also called a Stallion.
- Gelding: A male horse of any age that has been castrated.
- Filly: A female horse less than 4 years old.
- Mare: An adult female horse that is 4+ years old.
This is the amount of weight a horse is carrying for the race and is an important element to consider. On the racecard you will see the weight in stone and pounds so 9-7 is 9 stone 7 pounds. In this example, the jockey may only weigh 8 stone so the remaining 1 stone 7 pounds will be carried in the form of lead weights in what is often called a ‘lead cloth’.
Official Rating – OR
The BHA estimates that approximately 60% of races in the UK are handicaps. In these events, experienced handicappers attempt to give each horse an equal chance of winning the race. This is achieved by giving each horse an Official Rating which is determined through careful study of a horse’s performances in previous races.
A list of updated ratings are published only a weekly basis. In handicap races, the horse with the highest OR must carry the most weight. Typically, 1 rating point equates to 1 pound in weight so a horse with a 120 rating will carry 5 pounds more than a horse with a 115 rating; this is not always the case though.
The racecard may also provide you with the course layout and each individual race should be clearly marked. The layout should show you the positions of the fences (if applicable) and the start and finish lines.
This relates to the previous performances of the horse; racecards generally provide you with information of the horse’s finishing position in up to its last 6 races. There are an array of numbers and symbols:
- Numerical Figures: You may see 122 on a racecard which means the horse finished 2nd in its last race, 2nd in the previous race and it won the race before that. The most recent performance is on the right. Sometimes a card will go all the way down to 9 to denote a 9th place finish and 0 may be used to represent a finish outside of the top 9.
- -: The – symbol in between figures is used to separate this season from last season. So if a horse’s form reads 23-432, it means the horse has run 3 races this season so far.
- /: The / symbol between figures separates seasons in cases where the horse did not run last season. If the form reads /233 it means the horse has had 3 races this season but had no races at all last season.
- D: The horse was disqualified.
- P: The horse was pulled up.
- R: The horse refused to race.
- F: The horse fell.
- U: The horse unseated its rider.
This represents the latest betting odds and signifies the likelihood of a horse winning according to bookmakers.
Racing Post Rating – RPR
This is the rating assigned to each horse by the famed publication’s team of private handicappers and doesn’t necessarily correlate with the OR of the horse. Penalties are taken into account but jockey’s allowances are not.
Topspeed – TS
This is another Racing Post rating and we have a detailed explanation of what it means and how it is calculated here.
You should look at a racecard as your passport to successful betting but only if you know how to utilise the information contained within. For many serious punters, half the fun us digging into the data offered by a racecard! If you genuinely want to win money betting on horse racing, familiarise yourself with the card; otherwise, it’s the equivalent of being lost in the woods with no map or compass!