Many and varied are the ways you can approach selection-and In this special article PPM's brilliant Statsman comes up with a really Ingenious one ... a winner finder chart that makes form study as easy as pie!

Form study can be a bit of a grind. We've all discovered that at some stage of our punting life, and I'm the first to agree that it's tempting to ignore form altogether and just follow someone's tips.

But that's not really the way to go if you're possessed of a real desire to 'beat the races' and win not only money but provide yourself with some inner personal satisfaction at having confronted and beaten what is basically an intellectual challenge.

The details contained in an Aussie form guide are designed to help you to understand as much as possible about each horse. The trouble is that punters are generally busy people and lack the time needed for concentrated study.

It was with this in mind that I decided to look for an approach that combined key elements of form and placed them before the punter in a very easy-to-read format.

The final idea of a winner-finder chart came to me as I read a health book recently. Each page was split up into 'boxes' which formed a chart. You began at the first box with the first symptom and then worked your way through 'yes' and ,no' answers until you worked out what was wrong with you.

Bingo! I knew immediately that here was an idea I could utilise beautifully for picking winners. Instead of all the questions about health, I would put in questions about each horse's form, and using the 'yes' and 'no' answers I could lead P.P.M. readers through the form maze to find which horses had the best prospects in each race.

I wanted to keep the whole thing on a simple, yet effective, basis, so I restricted the questions boxes to nine, with three sets of conclusions to be drawn from them. (You'll find the complete chart below, but before you go to it please read the rest of the article, as I am about to explain what has to happen.)

Firstly, I decided that as a starting point I needed an all-embracing question that would allow you to make a certain decision. Depending on the answer-yes or no--you then move on to another box, with the arrows telling you which one to look at next.

How do we start a form analysis? My decision was a simple question about a horse's form: IS THE HORSE IN VERY GOOD FORM? This should, in each case, be pretty easy to answer. You have a good look at a horse's last three or four outings and these will tell you if he's in good or ordinary form. With horses which have been unplaced, check very carefully the margins they were beaten. If they were small (half length to, say, 1.5 lengths) you could probably assume the horse is in very good form.

You'll note on the chart that each box has a 'points value' and you need to add each of these figures as you progress through the chart for each horse. The horse 'wins' the box points if he gets a 'positive' vote (it could be a yes or a no, depending on the question). The maximum number of points any horse can collect is 21.

The points are important because with this approach you are likely to get several horses with 'winning' chances and even more rating 'place' chances. The more points a horse has the better his chance.

Let's assume you answer that a horse is in very good form. The arrow then directs you to the next box which asks: IS THE HORSE IN THE FIRST THREE LINES OF FAVOURITISM? You merely check your pre-post betting market for this information. This is an important question because most winners come from the first three lines of betting.

If the horse passes this question the arrow directs you to the next box which asks: IS THE HORSE CARRYING LESS THAN 57KGS? You cheek his allotted weight and see that it is indeed carrying less than 57kgs, so the arrow then aims you at the next box. which asks: IS THE HORSE DRAWN BETWEEN 1 AND 7? If it is, the arrow then leads you straight to the conclusion which is this: THIS HORSE HAS A STRONG WINNING CHANCE.

By answering these four easy form questions you have established very speedily that the horse is a win prospect in the race. But let's say your answer to the first question was a 'no' and that the horse wasn't in very good form.

The arrow directs you to another box which asks: HAS THE HORSE FINISHED 6TH OR WORSE AT ITS LAST THREE STARTS? If the answer to this is 'yes' then the arrow leads you to a third box, which asks: IS THE HORSE AT 20/1 OR LONGER IN THE BETTING? If it is, then the arrow points you to the conclusion, which is that this horse has only a rough chance of winning.

But let's assume that you answered 'no' to the second box. In this case, the arrow would lead you to another box containing the question: DID THE HORSE SHOW SOME IMPROVEMENT LAST START? This question gives you a chance to have another look at a horse that hasn't been in very good form but which just might be starting to look as if' it could find form.

If you answer 'yes' to this question the arrow points you to the 'weight' question box. A 'yes' here would then take you to the 'barrier' question. However, if your answer to the 'improvement' question was a 'no' then the arrow would send you on to the '20/1 or longer' in the betting question.

If the horse was not at 20s or longer, you would then be directed to the box which asks: IS THE HORSE A COURSE OR DISTANCE WINNER? With this question we are trying to establish if the horse has past form to indicate that it could surprise in this current race. If the answer is 'yes' you then move onto the box which asks: IS THE HORSE TO BE RIDDEN BY A VERY GOOD JOCKEY?

Take careful note of this question. When I say 'very good jockey' I mean exactly that. Think carefully. Don't give a moderate rider the benefit of the doubt. Stick with the top, proven and reliable jockeys. If you decide the jockey is not top-class, the arrow will send you to the conclusion that 'this horse has a place chance.' But if a very good jockey was riding then the arrow would have pointed you to the conclusion that the horse has a strong winning chance.

You can see from these examples that the chart is very easy to follow. It's also a lot of fun. I'll now take you through a recent race at Moonee Valley (May 9, 1990). This race worked out, using the chart, to have two 'win' prospects in Oakwood Star and Fairy Bower, and seven 'place' prospects.

FAIRY BOWER. I rated her as in 'very good form' because although she hadn't been placed in any of her last three starts, she had run 4th (two lengths) at her last start and 7th (2.5 lengths) three starts back. She was in the first three lines of favouritism, so with two boxes complete she had 12 points tallied. The third box asked if she was carrying 57kgs or more, which she wasn't so that gave her another five points, and moved her onto the box regarding barrier. She was drawn' 5 so passed this box and received another four points, giving her the maximum of 21, and making her a strong winning prospect.

OAKWOOD STAR: She was rated as in very good form, on the strength of two wins and a 4th on country tracks at her last three starts. She wasn't on the first three lines of favouritism, so went to the 'improvement' box, which she passed as she had improved from 4th to a win at her last two runs. This then gave her nine points so far, and she moved on to the weight box, which was OK as she had only 51kgs to carry. She now had 14 points. She passed the barrier question OK as she was drawn in 5 and so with 18 points she became a strong winning chance.

Fairy Bower went on to win the race, while Oakwood Star was unplaced. But with 21 points Fairy Bower was the top selection. Of the seven 'place chance' horses, Kammy finished 2nd and Makeup Lady ran 3rd. This is just one example of how the chart method can work. With a bit of practice, you should be able to rattle through a field of a dozen runners m five minutes or so. It's that easy.

A more recent example is the Textile Handicap (2447m) at Sandown on May 12. Let's look at the winner Go Timmy. He had finished 1st, 2nd and 4th at his last three starts so passed the first 'form' box question. He was in the first three lines of favouritism, so now had 12 points and was then pushed through to the 'weight' box, which he passed because he was carrying 55.5kgs. Drawn in barrier 3, he passed the final box question regarding barrier and thus became a strong whining chance with 21 points.

The second placegetter in the race was Reputed. He had run a fine 2nd at his last start, so qualified as being in very good form. He. too, was among the first three favourites, so accumulated 12 points and then went on to the weight question, which was OK as he was carrying 56.5kgs. But then came the barrier question.

Reputed was in barrier 8, so he was then arrowed to the 'jockey' box and here we had to say that a 'very good jockey' was not aboard, even though R. D. Griffiths is a competent rider. Thus, the arrow pointed us down the 'no' road to the conclusion that Reputed was a 'place' chance in the race-which, as it eventuated, was correct.

You can see from these examples the effectiveness of the winner-finder chart approach. Sure, you need some subjective judgement but not too much. Mostly, the form guide answers the questions for you. When you have all your final contenders, the points each has amassed will enable you to separate them and judge which are the best prospects.

Good luck with the chart-let me know how you get on. I am always delighted to hear from P.P.M. readers with good-or not so good-news. I am sure you will find my chart a 'fun' approach to selection and a highly successful one.


By Statsman