What use is the form book?

The form book, which is available online, free-of-charge from ‘Racing Post’, ‘Sporting Life’ and other sources, provides a ‘potted history’ of the performance of a racehorse in all its previous races. While it is often stated that ‘past performance is no guarantee of future results’, the form book is considered the punters’ bible insofar that, in the absence of privileged, ‘inside’ information, reading form is the only way to form an opinion on the likely outcome of a race.

At a basic level, the form book provides a ‘snapshot’ of recent form in the form figures – that is, a series of numbers representing the last five or six finishing positions – alongside the name of each horse. However, form figures alone only tell part of the story. Further investigation of detailed form is usually required to reveal distance and going preferences, any disparity in class, value or weight between previous races and the race under consideration and so on. Only by examining all these factors can the serious punter be confident that a horse has the conditions under which it can run to the best of its ability and, indeed, that the best of its ability is actually good enough to win the race in question.