How would you like to settle down on a Friday night, with two form guides in front of you, and work out the form in a sensible fashion? It can be done. Many successful punters do it.

Too many punters are a bit frightened of form study. They think of endless hours working out ratings, and trying to weigh up one run against another. But form study can be simplified. In computer jargon, it can be made 'user friendly'. Not that computers are involved in what I am recommending.

First of all, you need the Wizard formguide and the Best Bets pocket formguide. These are your essential tools of trade. The Wizard is a formguide big on statistics, and a couple of its statistical areas are where you can grab a deep insight into each horse's racing background.

Best Bets, which has been around for some 30 years, has been greatly improved in recent times, with the addition of extra statistical information. It is now an easy-to-read guide, which can provide the average punter with a neat insight into each runner.

If you don't have access to Best Bets, then try the Sportsman, or any of the major city newspaper guides; they should have the information you need. The Wizard, however, is vital because, as far as I know, it is the only formguide which tells you the 'days since' figures for each horse's wins.

That is, you can instantly see that when a horse won, exactly how many days it was since his previous run. For instance, in the case of Nibble. When she ran at Randwick on January 22, her line in the Wizard form relating to 'previous winning days' read as follows:

03-01-94 (7), 15-12-93 (8), 23-11-93 (14), 16-01-93 (16).

We can see from this line that Nibble can be expected to produce winning efforts when she is backed up within 16 days. On this particular occasion, she had had a 19-day break and she lost.

The Wizard also tells you at a glance how many days a horse has been absent from the tracks leading into its current start. So the information is most useful, particularly when it comes to runners who are resuming after a spell.

But it's Best Bets you use for your basic form study. These are the steps you take with this 'form fest' look at each runner:

STEP ONE:
Check jockeys and trainers. Mark in your assessments in order like this: Top, Good, OK, Minor. You might consider Lee Freedman, Jack Denham etc as Top Trainers, and then you might say Ken Callaughan is in the Good category, and so on. The same goes for jockeys.

STEP TWO:
Check each horse's ability at the track. The Best Bets guide has this information as follows: 'At Sandown, 13sts, 1-2-5'. This means a horse has had 13 starts at Sandown for 1 win, two 2nds and five 3rds. Using your red or blue biro, you then mark in 1/13 Sand (assuming you are working on a Sandown meeting). You might also mark in'7 places here'.

STEP THREE:
You check each horse's ability at the distance. You'll find this immediately following the track information. You might have, say, Robbie's Delight on January 22. Its line read: 'At 1400m, 2sts 2-0-0'. This shows that the horse is good at the distance, with two wins from two starts over 1400m. You would write next to Robbie's Delight 2/2 1400m.

STEP FOUR:
Check each horse's weight movements, and mark them in just under the horse's name in the Best Bets guide. You might see that a horse is going up 5 kilos, so you write +5.0. Or a horse may be going down 3 kilos, so you write -3.0. Remember that big weight rises mostly mean a horse is dropping in class, and big weight movements down indicate it is rising in class.

STEP FIVE:
You now use the Wizard for a quick check of each horse's 'previous days' - that is, how many days since it last raced. You are particularly interested in horses resuming from short breaks (24 days to 40 days) and spells (41 days or more). Write in the number of days for horses in these two areas. You then use the Wizard to find out their previous winning days.

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What you are looking for here is a link between the horse's current break or spell, and its previous performances at similar breaks between racing. When you do find these 'links' you can often be assured of a good bet - and it's amazing how many times everyone else will miss the link and the horse will start at huge odds.

I nearly pulled off a big coup recently when, after doing the form, I saw that in the first race at Randwick an outsider named Ragtime Band was resuming after a 92 days' spell. Checking the Wizard I saw it had won first-up before after a break of 217 days.

The 5YO was a winner over 1000m and 1200m and today's distance was 1100m. I penciled him in as a possible first-up chance. Well, he ran a close 2nd at 80/1. But what a great eachway bet!

Once you have marked in all the things I have suggested here, you can tell at a glance how each horse measures up. The next move is to closely analyse each runner. Mark down on the Best Bets guide any comment you wish to make. You might write 'Up In Class' next to a runner, or perhaps 'In Top Form', or maybe 'Good This Trip' and so on.

In the extract from my working-outs on the 5th race at Sandown on January 22, you can see how I marked the winner Asian Incline as follows:

Up 6.0, Down Class, W.A. Good Form, 0/0 Sandown, 4/6 1400m!

This clearly signaled to me that Asian Incline was in this race over 1400m with a top chance, despite a rise in weight. The class was far inferior to the Group One race he last contested in Perth on New Year's Day. And he had a 66 per cent win strike over the distance!

The other runner that came right into things was Minyama. You can see from my notes that I marked him:

Likes Track + Dist, +1.0, 3/5 Sand, 2/9 1400, Good (trainer), Top (jockey).

This tells us Minyama is likely to run well - a winner three times out of five at the track, twice a winner at 1400m, good trainer and top jockey, and only up 1 kilo on his last start. Minyama ran 3rd at 12/1.

Follow these guidelines and you should start to come up with some great eachway selections. Take your time, mark your comments in carefully then assess each runner closely. The more positive 'marks' the better!

By Martin Dowling

PRACTICAL PUNTING - MARCH 1994

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