How to Study Form: Part I
by Willy Weasel
What is Form?
Horse racing form is a collection of detailed information about the past performances of horses in races. For each race, the form includes the racecourse at which the race was run, the date, the class and distance, the underfoot conditions, or going, the number of runners and other information, such as the prize money and the time of the winning horse.
For each horse, the form includes its age, jockey and trainer, the weight it carried during the race and its starting price, or the prevailing odds in the on-course betting market at the time the race was “off”. The finishing position of each horse is also recorded, along with the distances, in lengths, or fractions of a length, which separated it from those that finished in front of or behind it in the race.
For horses that have an official British Horseracing Authority (BHA) handicap rating, that rating is also included, alongside the horse’s name. The details of each horse are accompanied by some short comments, made by a professional race-reader, which describe its style of racing, how it travelled throughout the race, its manner of victory if it was successful and any notable events, such as being denied a clear run or hampered by an opponent.
Where to Find Form
Most national newspapers have a horse racing pages that include form figures for each horse running on any given day. By form figures, I mean a series of numbers, letters and other symbols that indicate the horse’s finishing position in its previous races, or what happened to it if it failed to finish. Form figures are a good start, but if you’re going to study form properly, you need access to the detailed information previously described, which you won’t find in most national newspapers.
One exception, of course, is the Racing Post, Britain’s only daily racing newspaper. However, the Racing Post retails for £1.90 on weekdays and £2.20 on weekends, so if you don’t want to go to the expense of buying the newspaper, all the information you need is available, free of charge, on the Racing Post website, www.racingpost.com.
I’d like to state, at this point, that I have no affiliation, whatsoever, with www.racingpost.com and I mention it solely because it’s an excellent and still, remarkably, free resource of which all backers should be aware.
Why Study Form?
The rationale behind studying form is to determine which horse is the likeliest winner of a race based on its past performances. Obviously, nothing is 100% certain in horse racing, but, if a horse is demonstrably fit and ready to do itself justice, has shown in recent performances that it has sufficient ability to win, or win again, and is attempting little, or nothing, more than it has in the past, its likelihood of winning is very high. That statement effectively encapsulates all there is to know about studying form, but I realise that it also probably raises more questions than it answers at this stage. It is these questions that I hope to answer in this and future articles in this series.
Practice Makes Perfect
I use the word “perfect” only after careful consideration, because, however proficient you become at studying form, you’ll never be able to accurately predict the winner of every race. In fact, if you can achieve a strike rate of better than one in three, or 33%, and generate enough profit to make studying the form worthwhile in the first place, you’re doing well.
Nevertheless, the more form study you do the easier and more enjoyable it becomes. .
You can start studying form immediately and, as you do so, you’ll find that you naturally start to draw conclusions about the outcome of a race. Form study is, essentially, a process of applying basic logical principles to the information before you. If you can work out that if three men take 1½ hours to build a wall, one man takes 4½ hours to build the same wall, so two men take 2¼ hours, you’ll be able to cope with anything the formbook throws at you.
I’ve hopefully whetted your appetite for studying form by discussing what form is, where to find it and why it’s worth studying in the first place, so in the next article in this series, “How to Study Form: Part II”, I’ll start to expound on the finer points, using a real race. Actually studying form is much more exciting than writing about it, or reading about it, for that matter, so it should be quite good fun.
We hope you enjoyed our How to Study Form: Part I the first in our series of advanced horse racing bet tips and guides. Look out for our next installment - How to Study Form Part II in a few days time…