What To Look For In A Horse Racing Program


A day at the races can be a fun outing for anyone. Families and friends gather trackside to ooh and ahh over the beautiful horse racing selections and to indulge in a few wagers. 

However, those more serious about earning money at the track need the most up-to-date and comprehensive information to do it. Those potential bettors who are at the tracks in person would do well to look over the racing programs for sale.

What can be found in the pages of those programs? Let’s take a look.

The Articles

Most racing programs, particularly those that are hosting well-known races, have a few articles printed in them which can be informative. While indeed many of them are meant as human-interest or feel-good type stories, careful readers can discern relevant information about a number of topics through these articles.

For instance, an interview with a local trainer or jockey might give you a hint as to which connections will be most successful at the track. They might tell of trends that they’ve observed since coming to that track- whether the track favors speed horses or closers, for instance, or how much the surfaces are affected by the local weather. Trainers can also provide information about how their horses are training over the surface.

Some of the articles might also talk about historic trends for well-known races. If you attend Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, for instance, you will find bits of Derby trivia available. This might answer some questions you have about the big races, such as how often the favorite has won in recent years or which prep races have produced the most Derby winners.

The Advertisements

Stallion advertisements might seem like a waste at first to anyone who doesn’t own a broodmare, but handicappers can use the information in those advertisements to inform them on how certain bloodlines are performing. The pictures can provide clues as to an entrant’s conformation, or physical traits the stallion may pass down to his offspring. The advertisement may also include statistics such as the winning percentage for a certain stallion’s get, or recent standout performers that horse has produced. 

The Charts

Some racing programs have charts in them, which are detailed records of a previous day’s races. Like the entries, these charts provide information about the conditions of the race: the distance, the surface, the purse, and any restrictions the race may have (such as “for fillies and mares” or “horses who have never won two races”). However, they also give detailed goings-on of the races, including the complete order of finish, the odds for each horse, any horses that were scratched (meaning that they had entered the race and then were removed), and a summary of how the race unfolded.

These charts, if you study them carefully, can tell you a lot about the current trends of the track. Did yesterday’s winners race close to the pace? The charts can tell you. Did they look for room on the rail or go wide, circling the other entrants. The charts can tell you. Were there any stewards’ inquiries or jockeys’ objections? The charts can tell you that, too, and how- even how quickly- those decisions were resolved.

Charts from races further back are often archived on equine databases such as equibase.com.

The Entries

The past is the past, however, and no two days of racing are exactly alike. 

The entries will be the greatest source of information a bettor looks for when contemplating where to put their money. Typically these entries include the following: 

Biographical information- this includes the horse’s name, age, color, and number and/or post position. You will also be able to see the horse’s parentage as well as their lifetime record, lifetime earnings, current year’s record, and current year’s earnings.

Current human connections- this would be the horse’s current owner, trainer, and breeder, as well as the state or country that the horse was bred in. 

Past Performances- although the entries for more experienced horses rarely print the full Past Performances (PPs) of more experienced horses, this information can be key to discern a horse’s preferred running style, experience, and even whether the horse has run against any of the other horses in the field before. This information is paramount to serious and successful handicappers. 

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