How do you read a Racecard?

Whether it’s a bread and butter race meeting in the United Kingdom on a blustery night in Kempton, or a high profile meeting in the United Arab Emirates like the Dubai World Cup, the exhilaration the owners and trainers of the horses competing for feel are the same as they thunder down the straight to the winning post. 

With the jockeys trying to extoll the best from their respective mounts as the whips crack, the excitement of all the punters who have placed their hard-earned money on these horses is very similar. Whether it’s the first race or the last, all the horses running in those races form has been studied by amateur and professional horse racing analysts alike to find the winner of any one of these races that have been carded.

How do you read a Racecard? Racing Forms or more commonly known as Racecards are independent publications that offer a full history of the horses competing in forthcoming races. They are often available at racecourses across the globe in print form, or online through various publications on Social Media. 

They are an excellent tool for “handicapping,” or predicting whether a horse will win a race, or making an informed decision as to which horse could win a race. They are, nonetheless, exceedingly sophisticated technical publications, and below are the more generic information that would be available in almost all publications, printed or online.

Saddlecloth Number – The runners will be classified by their saddlecloth number, which will be shown on their saddlecloth throughout the race and is normally positioned on the far left of the racecard. In flat racing, a bracketed number beside the saddlecloth number signified the stall the horse was drawn in. In Jumps races, horses in a race are not allocated predetermined draws like they are in Flat Racing.

Owners Silks worn by the Jockey – The owner‘s “silk” (the colors that the jockey will wear) will be shown next to the saddlecloth number. If an owner enters more than one horse in the race even if the two horses are not with the same trainer, the color of the cap will change for one of the jockeys.

Horse Equipment — Any headgear or equipment worn by the horse will be shown in brackets next to the horse’s name. These are presented in abbreviated form. There are many types of equipment, or combinations thereof, that a trainer could attempt to utilise for the horse to reach their peak during a race.

  • Blinkers or Half Cups – a pair of small leather screens attached to a horse’s bridle to prevent it from seeing sideways and behind and being startled.
  • Alumites – Lightweight shoes that a trainer will put on a horse to assist it whilst running at high speed in a race.
  • Compression Mask – Added to a horse’s equipment and especially suitable horses who are nervous, unsettled, or who are distracted easily.
  • Ear Muffs – A piece of equipment that covers a horse’s ears to prevent it from hearing distracting sounds.
  • Pacifiers –  which are a blinker-style hood with mesh eye-covers, thought by some to calm horses.

Horses’ Age – The horse’s age is often listed to the right of the horse’s name. This is especially important to know especially when the age of a horse is taken into consideration versus the remainder of the field it is competing against. In a Maiden Race (a race for horses that have not won a race) the younger the horse is the more it will improve as it runs more races and strengthens its body. In Handicap Races the same premise will apply to younger horses versus their older counterparts.