You’re Off to the Races: What’s A Form Guide

If you’ve ever tried to bet on a horse race you’ve probably seen one of these. A form guide is going to be your main source of information when deciding which horse you want to bet on. With a thorough understanding of all the information that can be found on this form, you will be able to make an informed choice for your bet.

It’s not an uncommon practice to look at the names, and pick your horse based on that alone. There’s a reason this is common; the names are incredibly entertaining. I have been guilty of this myself many times. If you want to increase your odds of actually winning some money, this is not the way to do it.

Below I’m going to cover all the information you can find on a form guide. There is a lot of it jammed into such a simple looking piece of paper! From there you will be able to analyze what that information means. This can be a daunting task. Once you have made it through how to read a form guide, read here to find tips on analyzing the data.

Where to Find the Form Guide

You shouldn’t have any problem finding a form guide. Whether betting live at the track, at a televised off-track betting site, or online, the form guide will be everywhere. It will be included in the racing program, and throughout the facility, as well as easily visible on the online sportsbook you choose to bet with. This is what you’re looking for (though there will be some variance in design and layout):

OTB Form Guide

What Does All of It Mean?

I will break this down by column. Use the sample above to reference for a better understanding.

Column 1 (No.)

This column is fairly straightforward. Here you will see what number each horse will be wearing.

If the race will be starting from stalls, you will also find which position or stall that horse will have. This can have an impact on the race, as some have a higher advantage than other. The starting position will be displayed in parenthesis next to the horse’s race number.

Column 2 (Silks)

This column displays what color the horse Jockey will wear. Though this is irrelevant to the outcome of the race, it will make it easier to spot your horse prior to the race. You’re going to want to do this to see how the horse appears before you bet on them.

Column 3 (Form)

This is an important column. Yes, these numbers do actually mean something! On this example you will see only numbers and a few dashes, however sometimes you will also see letters.

These numbers (and sometimes letters) represent the position the horse has finished in its previous races. These are read from left to right to represent the oldest race to the most recent. Here’s the breakdown:

  • (-)

    A hyphen represents a change of racing season. Any number to the left of the hyphen will be finishing positions from the previous season. The numbers to the right of the hyphen are finishing positions for the current season.

  • (1-9)

    Any number 1-9 represents the finishing position of that horse in a previous race.

  • (0)

    A 0 represents a race in which the horse did not place in the top 9

Though less common, you can also see these abbreviations in this column:

  • (/)

    Symbolizes a break of longer than one season. Rather than a hyphen, the dash means the results to the left are older than one season.

  • (V)

    References a void race

  • (F)

    References that the horse fell

  • (U)

    References that the horse unseated its jockey

  • (D)

    References that the horse was disqualified

  • (P)

    References that the horse was pulled up

Column 4 (Horse)

Here you will find the name of the horse. There is a lot more information in this column than just the name though.  Next to the name, you will find the country the horse comes from. Along with the country there will often be a number. This number represents how long it has been since the horse’s last race. This is an important indicator of how you can expect the horse to perform in this race. We will get into that more when we talk about analyzing.

You will also see letters appear in this column for some horses. They are:

  • (C)

    Represents that the horse has won at this specific course before

  • (D)

    Represents that the horse has won a race of this distance before

  • (CD)

    Represents that the horse has won at this specific course and distance before

  • (BF)

    Represents that the horse was a favorite and lost in its last race

Column 5 (Age-Wgt)

Here is where you will find the horse’s age and weight. Weight is a little different in how its shown here. It is displayed in imperial measures, which is stones and pounds. For example, a weight of 9-7 means the horse will carry 9 stones and 7 pounds. A stone is equivalent to 14 pounds.

Column 6 (Jockey/Trainer)

Here you will find the name of the jockey displayed first. After that, you will find the name of the trainer. Specific trainers can have winning or losing records, so this information can be valuable if you want to do a little more research than what we’re getting into here.

Column 7 (OR)

OR stands for Official Ranking. Most form guides will have this but some will not. A higher number represents a higher rank and a better horse. This number is a handicap assigned to the horse.

Just like a handicap in golf or bowling, it is designed to level the playing field. Usually if a handicap is assigned the horses will be racing with different weights based on that number. A higher handicap means a higher weight they will be required to carry.

Putting it All Together

Always going for the horse predicted to win will most likely give you more winning bets over the long run. These payouts will be smaller because the horse was expected to win. To go for bigger money gains, you need to look for the value bet. You’re trying to spot the horse seen as less likely to win that you believe has a good chance.

Use the information you’ve gained from the race form guide to make an educated choice. Horse races are unpredictable. There is never such a thing as a sure win. If you understand the information available to you, the odds are much more favorable to win.