Horse Racing Betting Odds & Form Guides

Horse racing is heaps of fun and thousands, if not millions, of people from all over the globe enjoy watching and betting on horse racing every day. If you’re new to horse racing, it can be somewhat of a minefield to understand the betting odds, forms and terms, which is why we’ve come up with our straightforward guide to understanding horse racing betting odds and form. In this article, you’ll find out everything you need to know about betting odds and what they means as well as symbols you need to understand to have a better chance of placing a winning bet.

Betting odds

The first thing to understand is perhaps the betting odds. Even if you have a small amount of money to bet on a horse, when the race starts, you’re eager and excited. However, if you don’t understand odds, your bet will be a stab in the dark – or at best, chosen because you like the horse’s name or color!

Horse racing betting odds are a language in themselves. If you have poor odds, it’s like buying a run-down Renault Clio instead of a top-of-the-range Lamborghini. Just like car enthusiasts look for a decent car, good betters look for the best odds.

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The types of odds

If you look for real money online casino, lots of them often have sportsbooks where you can place bets on horses. You will either see:

  • Decimal odds, or
  • Fractional odds.

Understanding fractional odds

Fractional odds are the oldest type of odds used in horse racing. They date back to the 18th century. Though these are more challenging than decimal odds, most people have been brought up with this type of odds. 

Fractional odds look like 3-1 or 5-2. Essentially a 3-1 means for every dollar you bet, you win $3 if your prediction is correct. 

People do get confused, though, by the more complex odds like 5-2, but all you need to do is divide the first number by the second. 

When the first number is the higher of the two, this is called “Odds Against” and when the second number is higher, it’s called “Odds On”.

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Understanding Decimal Odds

When people are used to fractional odds and then see decimal odds, they can get confused. It can be easy to think that odds of 2.0 means 2-1. 

However, more and more places, including the best online casinos in Canada, are using decimal odds.

In lots of ways, decimal odds are simpler – the number you see, is the total sum of your potential return. For example, if fractional odds are 2-1 and you place a bet of $10, you will win $20. However, what many people don’t realize is that you also get your $10 stake back too. In total, $30 is returned to you. So, in decimal odds, 2-1 is 3.0.

Understanding race forms and cards

All race cards feature similar information. This includes the name, venue, time, and distance. The distance might be displayed in miles and furlongs. 

When you see the term penalty value, this refers to the winning horse’s prize money.

Ground conditions – Going 

One of the most important things on the race card is the ‘going’. This means the ground conditions. 

Often, you’ll see seven grades of ground conditions for grass. These are:

  • HD – hard
  • FM – firm
  • GD-FM – good to firm
  • GD – Good
  • GD-SFT – good to soft (or yielding)
  • SFT -soft
  • HVY – heavy

On synthetic or artificial surfaces (all weather/AW), you might see:

  • FST – fast
  • STD-FST – standard to fast
  • STD – standard
  • STD-SLW – standard to slow
  • SLW – slow 

Of course, the conditions could change depending on the weather and often, racetracks that are graded HD (hard) are deemed unsafe for jockeys and horses and so won’t be raced.

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Other information about horse and jockey

As well as the ground conditions, you’ll also see self-explanatory information like the silk design, horse name and age. 

Other information also includes:

Number and draw

The number first shown is the number of the saddlecloth. The second is the draw number for the stalls. This is used for flat races. Lower numbers mean the horses are closer to the rails when the race begins. Inside positions tend to have an advantage (though only slight) on certain distances and tracks.


This is the horse’s positions in prior races. The older races are further to the left, while recent races appear on the right. You’ll need to understand some symbols to get the idea:

  1. Numbers between 1 and 9 indicate the horse’s finishing position. If a zero appears, this means the horse didn’t end up in the top 9. 
  2. Seeing a dash symbol (-) will separate the years, while a slash symbol (/) separates different seasons. 
  3. When you see R, this indicates the horse either refused a jump or refused to start at all. 
  4. PU or P means that the jockey ended the race deliberately.
  5. F means the horse fell.
  6. UR or U means the jockey fell off their horse.
  7. BD or B means the horse was taken down by someone else in the race.

Final thoughts

Though horse racing and horserace betting seems quite complicated at first, once you’ve got the idea of the odds and form, you’ll be an expert in no time at all! Whether you prefer fractional odds or decimal odds is up to you – there are many sites that offer both!