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Reading the Race Card in Horse Racing

Suppose you’re a novice in the world of horse racing, one of the critical aspects of understanding the sport and learning how to read a horse racing racecard for an event. It establishes all the essential racing information you need to know, notably the horses and jockeys involved. However, there is also a lot of other factors that are worthy of your attention before you back one of the runners and riders. We will now break down all the terms that you will see on the race card to help you on your journey into the world of betting on horse racing.

Betting sites with the best Race Card 

In the following list there are the top 3 sportsbooks with the best race cards. We elected them by evaluating if they provide horse races from multiple countries, general payouts and special bet options. 

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Reading the Race Card: People Involved

Like any other sport, horse racing has many people that take part in the action. There are people from the stable that the horse is trained all the way to the grounds where a race takes place. All of them, though, can affect your bets one way or another. The three most significant figures in horse racing are the trainer, the jockey and the owner.

Trainer

The trainer of the horse. The horse racing trainer is one of the telling factors for the leading competitors in the race. More often than not, especially in leading races, the top trainers in the business will have the horses expected to compete for the win, and they can even have more than one of their charges running in the meet. In the flat, Aidan O’Brien and John Gosden are two of the best in the United Kingdom. Willie Mullins, Nicky Henderson, and Gordon Elliott are the notable names to watch out for – boasting some incredible talent in their yards, so always be sure to look at horse trainer stats.

Jockey

For jockey horse racing, it’s the person that will be riding the horse. The horse jockey plays a crucial role in the success or failure of a horse during the race. It’s vital to judging the pace of a race – controlling the exertions of their charge. The judgment of the jockey is critical down the stretch, with many horses winning races by mere millimeters. They often have the choice on which horse to ride. Tracking the decisions of an elite jockey, such as back-to-back Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Paul Townend, can be a telling factor for the outcome of a race.

Owner

On occasions, the owner of the horse will be featured on the racecourse. Famous owners usually boast impressive horses that will challenge for the crowns. J.P. McManus is one of the most notable owners on the jumps circuit. He usually has several challengers for the leading events at Cheltenham Festival yearly. The colour of the jockey’s jersey represents the owner, allowing punters to identify horses from a particular owner or ownership group quickly.

Horse Racing Racecard Terminology 

Knowing the race card terminology is the first step to perfecting your horse race betting skills. If you're not 100% familiar with everything you might encounter, then you open the way to betting mistakes. Let's see all the terms that might appear in front of you, and you need to know before you start making bets in horse racing:

Saddle Cloth Number

Every horse has a unique number that they will wear in the race and will appear on the race card. It’s visible on a cloth placed above the saddle, ensuring that punters in the stands and at home can track their progress.

Name

Merely the name of the horse chosen by the owner. It can be a quirky name or one that is steeped in history due to the horse’s lineage. Anything goes, but you always have to keep in mind the horse you have your money on. 

Age

The age of the horse. Age can play an important factor in horse racing, with experience or youth favouring competitors in different circumstances. Older horses are found in jumps racing, while in the flat, where pace in more prevalent, is the jurisdiction of the younger breed.

Horse Weights

A horse has to carry weight during a race, which is displayed in stone and pounds. Depending on the type of race, a competitor may have to carry more than their rivals – this is the case in handicap races. Weights carried by racehorses as handicaps act as a penalty to even out the field.

Form Figures

It is the past form of the horse, signified by the number where they placed, or by a character if they were unable to complete the contest. Usually, it will contain the final position of the horse in the last ten races. There is a number system to signify the places, from 0-9, where 0 indicates that it finished outside the top 9 horses. 

Draw (Flat only)

Where the horse will line up in the stalls, depending on the racecourse, where horse lines up in the stalls can have a bearing on the result, it is always worth looking where your competitor is situated before placing a bet. The number 1 draw is more often on the left, closer to the rail, and it is considered the best draw possible. 

Βreeding

The race card will have an abbreviation of which country the horse was bred in, which is significant because certain countries are famous for producing top quality horses. Typical abbreviations are IRE for Ireland, GB for Great Britain, FR for France, which can be found in the horse's information.

Course

Should a horse have a C next to their name on the card, this signifies that they have a victory on the racecourse in their career. It’s not always a great indicator of future success, although some competitors favour the feel of one track more than another.

Distance

Should a horse have a D next to their name on the card, this implies that they have won at the distance of the race they are due to compete in that race. Experience over distance is essential, primarily if the rest of the field has not raced the same length before in their careers.

Course and Distance Win

CD signifies that the horse has won on the course and the distance in the same race. A course and distance win suggests that the horse may have recorded a significant victory in an event and is the returning champion. Al Boum Photo springs to mind before the 2020 Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Beaten Favourite

A mark that few horses will not want to bear during their careers. BF signifies that they were the beaten favourite in their last outing. It bears watching this marker, as the horse was a quality competitor before his previous appearance. A loss could have been down to several factors, and, given their price, it may be worth backing them to bounce back.

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Race number next to the name

A number next to the name of the horse details the amount of time in days since they last competed. A large racing number would suggest that the horse is returning from an injury or has been held back by their trainer/owner.

BHA Horse Ratings

A horse will receive a rating from the British Horse Racing Association, which allows the organisation to detail the quality of the competitor. The higher the number, the better the horse. It also aids the handicap to determine how much weight a horse should carry in a race.

About the Race

This section details what kind of race the event will be and the distance. It could be a stakes event, such as in flat racing, or a chase event in jumps racing. The length of the contest is in furlongs. The group will also describe the standard of the horse racing: e.g., Group 1 will be an elite standard of competition. Other details include the age range of the horses – for example, the contest may only accept horses three years and older.

Betting Forecast

This provides a rough idea of who the leading contenders will be without giving odds. It should not be taken as a gospel reading on the fortunes of the race, but there is enough detail there to form a solid opinion, although further information is required before placing a punt on a race.

Odds

The most important aspect of the card. It details the odds for the outcome of the race. The favourite will have the shortest odds displayed in a fraction, decimal, or whole number depending on your location in the world. The higher the number, the less chance the bookies believe that the horse can pull off the victory. However, they’re not always right!

Starting Price

This is designated by the characters 'SP' on the race card. It offers the bettor odds on their horse as they were at the start of the race. This can be beneficial should the price drift before the beginning of the contest, offering the punter better value than when they placed the bet.

Bookmaker Racecard Reviews

Bet365 provides comprehensive information about a single race when you are browsing on their website and app. All the details about the horses are present, along with the style of jersey the jockey will be wearing. There are odds for fixed and tote markets, depending on your location. The each-way terms are visible at the top of the card next to the distance and time of the event. Bet365 presents the odds in fractional, decimal, or whole numbers based on your location, while it does not have a betting exchange option available. Other markets are open at the top of the card online.

Unibet also provides all the vital information you will want to see on its racecard. It appears with better aesthetics, especially for novices. Like Bet365, their site provides all the details about the horse, including; age, form, stall number, weight, age, jockey, and trainer, and, once again, the jersey of the rider. Unibet also includes the BHA number as well as a dropdown menu, providing additional further details. A race overview exists at the top of the card with the time and the length of the event. The odds are visible in fractional/decimal or a whole number, depending on your location. Unibet does not provide an exchange option. Additional markets are available at the top of the card online.

William Hill also includes the vast amount of information you want to see on the race card. All the details about the horse's age, form, stall number, weight, age, along with the jockey and trainer, are present. The jersey style is featured with the horse’s recent form displayed underneath in a change from its competitors. A dropdown menu features insider information from the Racing Post on their opinion about the horse. The odds are once again presented in either fractional, decimal, or whole numbers. William Hill does not have an exchange option available on the online card.

Coral’s online racecard is more basic than the others. They do not provide as much information compared to their competitors. The horse name, stall number, and jersey style are visible, along with the name of the jockey and trainer. You can also find the form just below, with further information in a dropdown menu. Again, the odds are readily accessible, matching that of their competitors.

Betfair offers a great deal of information on the race card, perhaps the most out of all its competitors. Their site is simple and easy for novices to understand and navigate. The information provided is not altogether like other bookmaker sites. There are no missing details hidden on a dropdown menu. There is a more fabulous break down of form on a menu next to the name of the horse. This can be useful for experienced bettors. There is also a top tip feature available by horse racing experts Timeform, offering advice on which horse to back. The exchange option available, however, is on the Betfair Exchange website rather than the host site, offering parlay betting odds.

Book Spy: Why Reading a Race card is Important

The race card is a vital tool for all bettors to consider their options ahead of the race. There should be research before the event on all the runners and riders. Still, the race card arms you with vital odds and detailed information down to the last minute if you are browsing online or via a betting app. Anyone looking for details should not overlook it before they place that all-important stake. The more information they have, the better. This is why using a bookie that provides a thorough look at the race at hand is a good way of judging their quality.

Full list of horse betting sites

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