How to read horse racing workout lines

March 9th, 2022

In between races, horses need to stay fit. This is commonly accomplished by routine gallops and weekly “workouts,” or timed exercises performed at something close to racing speed.

Analyzing workouts is a key component when handicapping unraced horses or horses returning from long breaks. The details of a horse’s workouts can be found in many places, including Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances.

The abbreviations and data points outlining a workout can be difficult to decipher, so we’re here to reduce the learning curve. We won’t dig too deeply into actually handicapping based off workouts; there’s a lot of nuance better saved for another day. Instead, we’ll focus on crunching the numbers and letters so you can learn to properly read workout lines.

Where do I find workout lines?

In Brisnet Ultimate Past Performances, each horse in a race is given its own section stuffed with data. Workout lines can be found along the bottom of the section. Two lines of text are set aside, typically including a dozen workouts. The workouts are listed in reverse chronological order, with the latest workout first.

How do I read workout lines?

Check out the workout lines listed below. They might look intimidating, but their data is actually simple to analyze.

Let’s start with the latest workout listed—“02Feb OP 4f ft :502 B 55/93.” This chunk of text conveys the following information:

  • The date of the workout was Feb. 2 (02Feb) in the current year.
  • The location of the workout was Oaklawn Park, known in racing circles by the abbreviation (OP).
  • The distance of the workout was four furlongs (4f).
  • The condition of the track was fast (ft).
  • The time of the workout was :50 2/5 (:502), or 50.4 seconds.
  • The horse was “breezing” (B), which means he was under light urging. (More on that in a moment.)
  • The workout ranked as the 55th fastest out of 93 half-mile workouts at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 2 (55/93).

Now let’s analyze the third workout listed—“●16Jan FG 5f gd 1:003 B 1/23,” which can be read as follows:

  • The date of the workout was Jan. 16 (16Jan) in the current year.
  • The location of the workout was Fair Grounds (FG).
  • The distance of the workout was five furlongs (5f).
  • The condition of the track was good (gd).
  • The time of the workout was 1:00 3/5 (1:003), or 1 minute 0.6 seconds.
  • The horse was “breezing” (B).
  • The workout ranked as the fastest out of 23 five-furlong workouts at Fair Grounds on Jan. 16 (1/23). This is further indicated by the bullet point preceding the date; the fastest workout at each distance on a given day is known as a “bullet” workout for this reason.

What other abbreviations can be found?

Many abbreviations exist to indicate different racetracks and track conditions, and knowing them all isn’t critical for a broad understanding of workout lines. But there are a few other notations you may come across that warrant mentioning:

  • Rather than a “B” for breezing, you may see an “H” for “handily”—a workout accomplished without any visible urging from the jockey. However, it’s important note racetracks and training centers in California reverse these terms, so “handily” refers to light urging and “breezing” indicates a motionless rider.
  • Following the “B” or “H”, you may see a lowercase “g.” Most workouts unfold with a running start, but a “g” indicates the workout began from the starting gate.
  • If the date of the workout is followed by a second number (reading, perhaps, as “01May’21), this simply means the workout took place in a year other than the current year—in this example, in 2021.
  • Some racetrack abbreviations are followed by “tr.t,” such as “Bel tr.t.” In this example, the abbreviations indicate the workout took place over the Belmont Park (Bel) training track (tr.t), as opposed to the main track at Belmont.
  • If the racetrack abbreviation is followed by a “T” enclosed in a circle or square, it means the workout took place on turf. If the encircled T is followed by a “(d),” this indicates “dogs” (cones) were set up as guidelines to prevent horses from working over the innermost lanes of the turf course. Working around dogs requires a horse to run in the middle of the course, which can lead to slower times.

Congratulations! You’re now up to speed on reading workout lines. Here's hoping they help you cash a wager or two in the near future.