Race cards can be a useful source of information for people that like to bet on horse racing, and below is a guide to how to read a race card.
Although several different companies produce race cards, most have a small picture of the silks that the jockey will be wearing. These silks will help you identify your horse during the race. When an owner has more than one runner, jockeys are often asked to wear different coloured hats to help distinguish them from each other.
All horses are allotted a number in a race, starting at one. If there are 10 entries in a race, the horses will be numbered 1-10. These numbers remain the same, even if there are non-runners on the day. Saddlecloth numbers are another way of identifying horses during a race, especially when two or more jockeys are wearing similar silks.
All horses have a name, which the owner can choose. Names are not allowed to cause offence, and the BHA asks owners to follow strict guidelines. However, the BHA has failed to stop one or two commentator’s nightmares from getting through the net over the years.
Race cards display the ages of horses, which many punters will use together with statistics to try and predict the winners of races.
The weights on race cards are the weights horses will be carrying during the race. In the UK and Ireland, these weights are declared in stones and pounds. Weights are made up of the jockey, the saddle, and any loose weights that are needed to reach the required total.
Weights can vary greatly, depending on whether a race is a handicap or whether some horses must carry penalties. Weights carried can also be useful statistics when trying to pick horse racing winners.
Race cards tell you which trainer trains each horse, and it’s a good idea to check which trainers are in form when trying to pick winners. Past renewals are also a guide to which trainers tend to target specific races.
Jockey bookings are always worth a second look, as the best jockeys are often booked for a horse when the trainer thinks it has a good chance of winning. In recent years, horse racing has also produced a steady stream of excellent claiming jockeys that start their careers with a 7lb claim, which reduces to 5lb and 3lb after they’ve ridden so many winners. When a claiming jockey is riding as good or nearly as good as the professionals, it often pays to follow them.
Numbers next to a horse indicate the horse’s most recent finishing position. For example, 1 means the horse finished first, 2 means it finished second, etc. These allow you to quickly see which horses are in form. Some horses also have letters in their form, which indicate a reason why they have not finished a race. Examples include P = Pulled Up, F = Fell, R = Ran Out, S = Slipped Up, D = Disqualified, U = Unseated.
Horses running in most flat races in the UK and Ireland start from stalls. For example, in a 10-runner race, the stalls will be numbered 1-10. However, the stalls do not match the saddlecloth numbers of the horses, as they do in some countries. Instead, a draw takes place to determine which stalls horses start from. These stalls are normally shown on a race card as a number inside brackets. The draw can be crucial at many racecourses, and you should definitely consider its potential effects when trying to pick winners.
Breeding is a complex process in which breeders try to cross bloodlines to try and create racehorses with that perfect match of speed and stamina. Sires and mares can often be a good indicator of the optimum conditions a horse needs to excel, regarding distance and going conditions. However, this is far from an exact science.
Number Next To A Horse’s Name
Most race cards will display a number next to a horse’s name, and this indicates how long it is since the horse last raced under the code it is running under, I.e. flat or jumps. If it has run under the other code since, this is sometimes displayed in brackets next to the first number.
Race cards also use some other letters to indicate other important information that punters might want to know. C – means a horse has won at the course. D – means a horse has won over the distance of the race. CD – means a horse has won over the course and distance of the race. These can all be useful pointers.
Another letter combination you might see on a race card is BF, which means a horse was a beaten favourite in its last race.
OR is the rating given to a horse by the official handicapper, and many racecards include this. This makes it easy to see which horse the official handicapper thinks has the best chance in graded races. But in handicaps, this rating is simply used to determine what weight each horse carries.
Some race cards are produced by well-known sports betting sites and these often produce their own ratings to indicate which horse they think has the best chance of winning.
Most race cards provide a comment about each horse. These may be the standard ones that lots of sites use, or the producer of the race card may use their own opinion/comment.
How Useful Are Race Cards?
Race cards are a useful source of information, but you still need to know how to use this information to your advantage. For example, many punters will simply bet on a horse with a string of 1’s next to its name, while completely ignoring horses with form figures of 5,8,7.
But what a race card doesn’t tell you is in what types of races those results were achieved. Those wins may have been recorded in novice chases that took little winning, while the unplaced finishes may have been recorded in top-class graded races, but the latter may still be the higher-rated horse.
Race cards also don’t tell you how to use information such as draws, ratings, trainer form, jockey bookings, and breeding to your advantage. But in the hands of a professional gambler or tipster who spends hours studying horse racing form and statistics, information is a deadly weapon.
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