MODULE 4: Understanding Form

Although it is essential to go through an individual horse’s form figures, it is not a tactic that yields long-term profit. If picking winners were as easy as looking at a horse’s most recent performances, we would all have far more winners, and the bookmaker’s odds would look very different.

While you will see a few head-to-head meetings, especially in higher class races, it is typical for a horse to race against different opponents regularly. Yes, you can try to compare the opponents each horse has defeated, but must still take into account factors such as a horse’s age, weight carried, track, going, race speed, and much more.

One of the tried and trusted methods of comparing form is to see how a horse has fared against future winners. Check out today’s racecard, and you are sure to see at least one comment relating to this fact. Horse X may have finished second behind a horse that subsequently performed well in its next races. It may even have defeated a horse that won its next race or two.

A Quick Note on Handicapping

In non-handicaps, it is arguably easier to compare form because the horses carry the same weight (barring the odd exception). You can look at how they performed in comparison to other relevant horses, and also look at their OR for each race.

It is a little trickier in handicap races because you have to take into account the different ratings and weights carried, along with every other factor! If a handicapper does his job perfectly, each race would have a photo finish or two. Of course, this is seldom the case.

The team of handicappers in UK racing analyse the performances of horses and decide on ratings and the amount of weight carried by each animal. For the record, the system uses a pounds per length formula. You can read more about it on the Race Advisor blog.

For example, in a 5f flat race, a horse carries three pounds more if it is one length better than another horse. The pounds per furlong level falls, the longer the race. In National Hunt races, horses get one pound per length unless the race being analysed was over very heavy ground or across a long distance.

As this is horse racing, things get even more complicated! Please don’t take handicap ratings at face value. As a horse gets a rating after completing three races (or in other circumstances), trainers occasionally ‘game the system.’ They run the horse over an unsuitable trip or ground to get an artificially low rating.

If you see a horse making its first run with a handicap rating, check its previous races. Sometimes, you may notice that it is running over an entirely new distance, or else it is back from a long absence. In these cases, comparing form becomes very tricky.

Other Factors to Consider

The bare figures don’t always tell the full story. A favourite could perform poorly because the rider got into the wrong position and was unable to get the horse into the open quickly enough. The horse may have missed the break, injured itself while bouncing in the stalls, or get spooked for an unknown reason while on the way to victory.

It is also worth comparing times. A 5f race is over in less than 60 seconds. A horse could finish a second behind and end up in fifth place, for example. It is even worth checking out replays if you have the time. It isn’t unusual to see a horse only get into its stride in a 5f race near the end, a sign it would prefer 6f. Likewise, a horse could weaken towards the end of a 7f race, an indication that 6.5f is better.

There is the ‘bounce factor’ to consider also. This is when a horse returns from a long layoff, wins its first race back, and does poorly in the next run. In this case, the horse probably has sore joints from its opening run back and was unable to recover in time for the next race.

Collateral Form

In simple terms, collateral form is when you assess the chances of one horse against another. They don’t necessarily have had to race one another, but they have probably competed against the same opponent. Logic suggests that there is a good chance of the form being upheld, but in horse racing, there are many facets to consider.

Here is an example of collateral form based on four horses running in the same race at Fontwell.

  • Duhallow Lad beat Waikiki Waves by 8 lengths 653 days ago in a 2m 3.5f race at this course. The race was a maiden hurdle on heavy ground. Given the time elapsed, and the fact that this race is on Soft ground and is 3 furlongs longer, it is a good idea NOT to take this form too seriously. Also, today’s race is a Chase event.
  • Dylanseoghan beat Goring One by 21 lengths 549 days ago at Stratford. The Good to Soft ground is relevant, but the distance was 3m 4f. It was also a long time ago.
  • Waikiki Waves also beat Goring One; this time by 13.75 lengths at Lingfield 247 days ago. The ground was soft, like today, and the distance is similar enough to matter.

In this seven-horse race, we can ascertain that Goring One is likely outgunned, but find it hard to make accurate comparisons with the rest of the horses. Dylanseoghan beat Goring One by a greater distance than Waikiki Waves but over a much longer distance.

One could argue that Duhallow Lad and Dylanseoghan are similarly matched, but again, it is difficult to say. It is worth checking out the weights carried and the OR of each horse in these races.

First of all, we must eliminate the Duhallow Lad versus Waikiki Waves comparison because it happened during a Hurdles race.

MODULE 4: Understanding Form 2
  • We see that Goring One carries 9-9 with an OR of 83.
  • Dylanseoghan carries 11-3 with an OR of 108.
  • Waikiki Waves carries 11-10 with an OR of 112.
  • Duhallow Lad carries 11-7 with an OR of 109.
MODULE 4: Understanding Form 3

During the race where Waikiki Waves finished ahead of Goring One, he carried 11-11 with an OR of 99.

MODULE 4: Understanding Form 4

In the Dylanseoghan win against Goring One, he won the race convincingly carrying 11-7 and with an OR of 99. In today’s race, there are also four pounds between the horses. Of course, there is the small matter of the longer distance, which may give a false outlook as in very long races, the winning margin can reach silly proportions.

If you wish, you could also analyse Goring One, but in reality, all signs point towards that horse being overmatched.

From looking at the above example, you probably have little faith in collateral form. After all, it wasn’t especially useful in this example!

Collateral form is potentially useful in races where horses appear similarly matched. I looked at a 6f All-Weather race at Kempton and found that:

  • Billyoakes has beaten Mercers on four occasions. He has also beaten Tiger Lyon and Madame Ritz.
  • Shaffire has beaten Mercers.
  • Roaring Rory has beaten Billyoakes twice and Madame Ritz.
  • Patrick has beaten Roaring Rory.
  • Te Amo Te Amo has beaten Mayfair Madame.

It is interesting that Roaring Rory beat Billyoakes by 14.15 lengths at Redcar, but only managed to finish 0.25 lengths ahead on the All-Weather at Wolverhampton.

MODULE 4: Understanding Form 5
MODULE 4: Understanding Form 6

There isn’t much difference between what Roaring Rory and Billyoakes carried during their two meetings. Although we would need to watch the race to learn more, it could merely be a case of Billyoakes preferring the All-Weather track, or Roaring Rory not enjoying it as much.

Patrick defeated Rorying Rory by 2.8 lengths on Newcastle’s AW track in a 6f race. Today, he is four pounds better off at the weights. From this admittedly rough reading of collateral form, we have to suggest that Patrick is the pick of the horses analysed. Should we read too much into a single race? Probably not!

As it happens, Patrick is the second favourite behind Penarth Pier who unfortunately has not run directly against anyone in the field.

Can I Compare Collateral Form on Race Advisor Pro?

The PFP rating is not purely a collateral form reading, but it is a handy tool for comparing horses. We begin with a ‘base’ rating of 1500. This score rises or falls depending on how the runner compares with other horses in the race.

For example, our software takes Horse A, and compares it to Horse B, C and D, if it has run against those before. Then it looks at who Horse B, C, and D have run against, and so on. It is based on the Glicko chess rating system if anyone is interested!

The ACPFPCL is an extension of the PFP rating. It takes the average PFPCL of horses in the races in which they were competitive. Once again, the base score is 1500.

MODULE 4: Understanding Form 7

In the race above, Valdez has the highest PFP score of 1524, but Gaia Ball is just one point behind. Furthermore, Gaia Ball’s ACPFPCL score is by far the highest and is the only one above the baseline. The rest is a long way behind.

Incidentally, Gaia Ball defeated Valdez by a length a few months ago. Today, Gaia Ball is two pounds better off at the weights.

Today’s Task

Go Through A Horse’s Collateral Form

Check out the PFP and ACPFPCL ratings of horses you are interested in. See how far they are above the baseline and pay attention to the latter rating. Next, look at each horse’s record to see if it has raced against anyone else in the race.

If it has, analyse the result, paying particular attention to the Going, Distance, and weight carried by each horse. Horse A may have defeated Horse B by three lengths a few races ago, but if it is carrying 10 pounds more, its opponent could have a considerable advantage.

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