How to read the horse racing form guide

Racing Form Guide: Introduction

Punting on horse or dog racing is, along with a potential source of some discretionary income, a challenging hobby that will expand your intellect and inject entertainment value into your life.

Wagering on the thoroughbreds, trotters or greyhounds, if you want to derive the most possible satisfaction and you want to test your wits beyond simply picking appealing odds and making your plunge, requires a willingness to delve into the details that separate the professional punter or successful amateur from the rank amateur who wants to have a punt on the Melbourne Cup or the Cox Plate.

One of your key assets in this pursuit is the form guide.

Pardon the pun, the form guide comes in different forms, printed and electronic, but at its most basic, it is simply a compilation of historical racing information that attempts to give a punter an edge in determining which runners to back. Most punters nowadays are using electronic form guides on the Internet. Many of these are provided by online bookmakers, as well as some by third parties unaffiliated with any bookmaker. These third parties hope to generate revenue by selling subscriptions and by advertising revenue. The primary benefit is that online form guides can be updated almost instantaneously.

If you were to ask 10 different punters how to read a form guide, you would quite possibly receive 10 different answers and you yourself will eventually develop your preferences regarding what strategies work best for you. Here are a few basic tips for new punters to serve as a framework leading to more advanced wagering. These tips are based on thoroughbred form guides.

How to read the form guide:

1. Horse Details

This will give you the name of the horse, the saddlecloth it will be wearing in a race, the name of the track where the race is scheduled to be run, the horseโ€™s trainer, and its starting position in the barrier, along with the amount of weight it will be carrying for the race.

2. Breeding Details

The main thing to observe is the sire and dam of the horse, along with its age.

3. Racing Colours and Jockey

The silks the horse is wearing for a race make it easier to spot in the field if you are actually at the meeting or watching on the telly, but punters are more interested in the jockey who is steering.

4. Historical Performance

This item carries far more weight than the first three. It gives the horseโ€™s career statistics in terms of races entered, the number of wins and places (2nd or 3rd), and the prize money earned.

5. Career Spell, Track and Distance, Track Condition

Just as is true with their human athlete counterparts, horses benefit from resting, or being spelled. Punters will often expect a horse making its first start after a spell to perform better and this section of the form guide will supply that detail. This section will also let you know which distance is the best for a particular horse, and what sort of track conditions it prefers.

6. Recent Results

Again, as with humans, horses can experience hot streaks or slumps, so information about the last three races in which the horse took part might tip you that its performance is improving or is beginning to deteriorate. This will help you to more objectively assess a horseโ€™s odds and ferret out those better-than-average selections, especially when you start to make place wagers and other exotic wagers.


Putting all this information together, particularly the last three statistics, will allow you to move out of the realm of rank amateur punter into that of a punter who has valid expectations of success that extend well beyond random luck.