A racing program is packed with informationPolytrack is always rated fastA nervous horse can run its race in the paddock

How to Read the Program

Racing programs are packed with information to help you make a smart bet. The numbers and symbols might be daunting at first, but it's an easy language to learn and you don't have to learn everything at once.

Consider the Past Performances
Start by looking at the past performances (PPs) of each horse entered in a race. PPs reveal how a horse has performed over time and help you compare one horse to another.

Pay particular attention to the comment section. If a horse stumbled out of the gate, had to be checked in traffic, was bothered by another horse, or had other trouble, take that into account.

Post position matters, too. If a frontrunner broke from far outside, he may have used too much energy early trying to angle over to get position. A horse breaking from or near the rail may get caught inside and lack running room.

Click How to Read Past Performances to learn how to use this important information. (PDF, 128KB)

Consider the Odds
Nothing guarantees that what happened yesterday will happen today, but history shows that the favorite—the horse with the lowest odds—is the favorite for a reason. Nationally, over time:
  • Bet to win, the favorite pays off 33% of the time.
  • Bet to place (comes in 1st or 2nd), the favorite pays off 53% of the time.
  • Bet to show (comes in 1st, 2nd, or 3rd), the favorite pays off 67% of the time.
Consider the Jockey
Jockeys' stats appear next to their names. "(17-4-4-2) 58.82%" means the jock has had 17 mounts so far in the meet and won 4 times, placed 4 times, and finished third twice, putting him in the money almost 59% of the time with a win rate of about 24%. Anything over 15% is a good indication of talent.

Consider the Trainer
Check trainers' stats like you checked the jockeys'. For more detail, find the page that shows trainers' results with horses of different ages and in races at different distances, and on different surfaces. Daily Racing Form even gives you stats on the performance of the jock/trainer combination.

Consider the Horse
How does his or her winning percentage compare to others? Is the horse moving up in class (say, from claiming to allowance) or down? Does she do well at the distance? Is he coming back from a layoff? If she didn't win last time, how far back was she? Is he younger than other horses in the field? Is she carrying more or less weight than the others? How does the horse's speed figure compare to others in the field? Has his equipment or medication changed?

Consider the Horse's Style
Frontrunners like to get to the front early. Stalkers sit just behind the leaders and make a move coming for home. Closers wait far back in the field and make a big run all at once down the stretch.

If a race has more than one speed horse, they might wear each other out and set things up for a closer or let a stalker slip by. In a race without early speed, or if a single leader dictates a moderate pace, closers may not be able to make up ground.

But remember, every horse has good days, bad days, and a mind of his own! Watching horses in the paddock and post parade can give you valuable clues. Does he seem alert and eager? Over-excited, nervous, or "washy" (noticeably sweaty)? Calm and professional? Some horses may seem almost too calm but are saving their energy for the track. Others may use up their energy in the paddock.

Consider the Track
All-weather conditions
  • All-weather surfaces, like Turfway's Polytrack, are always rated "fast."

    Dirt track conditions
  • Fast (ft): Track is dry and most efficient. Horses usually run their fastest times on fast tracks.
  • Sloppy (sy): Track base is still solid but water stands on the surface and is seeping down.
  • Muddy (my): Water permeates the base. Times are usually slower; horses tire more quickly.
  • Heavy (hy): Similar to muddy but slower.
  • Slow (sl): Track is drying but deep and producing slower times than a good track.
  • Good (gd): Track is drying but producing slower times than a fast track.
  • Off: Any track that is not fast.

    Turf track conditions
  • Firm (fm): Track is dry with slight give; corresponds to fast dirt track.
  • Good (gd): Track is relatively firm but has some moisture and more give.
  • Yielding (yl): Track is softened by rain and footing is uneven. Times will be slower.
  • Soft (sf): Track is saturated and footing is unreliable.