Every meeting has both “easy" and "hard" races on the program - those with exposed form and those with too many variables such as first starters to warrant a bet - but there's one type of race that gives us a major head start every time.

The problem for most punters is that they just don't identify these specific races for the advantage they provide. Sure, they're few and far between but weight-for-age racing provides consistency beyond all other races and surprising value as well.

Consider the facts for a moment. You know the form of virtually every horse in the race because they're proven gallopers with exposed form. They have often raced against each other time and time again to provide a readable form line and the weight scale is easy to assess.

If one horse is a newcomer to the Australian WFA arena, it's usually for one of three reasons - it comes from overseas (usually New Zealand), is a young horse on the way up or is an in-form handicapper being tested at the higher level.

In the case of the overseas galloper, it usually has enough exposed form for assessment and its reputation - particularly if from across the Tasman - provides a fair guide to its talent. For instance, we knew the likes of Sunline, Veandercross and Bonecrusher were pretty special before each made their Australian WFA debut.

The other two categories – three-year-olds moving up from set weight company and in-form handicappers - are worth closer scrutiny. They are at the centre of what I consider some very simple rules for betting on WFA races. They are not foolproof, of course, but follow them and you'll save money you may have wasted on horses that just can't win in this class.

The main thing to remember is that you should back only proven WFA runners or three-year-olds which haven't yet had the chance to prove themselves in WFA races. It's hardly rocket science but it's surprising how many tipsters and punters - even those who consider themselves astute form students will fall into the trap of backing an older horse not proven in the toughest company of all.

The trick is to determine what constitutes a WFA horse. Winners in that class obviously qualify while placegetters in WFA events from Group 2 upwards have also earned their stripes. If an older horse hasn't proven itself at decent WFA level even if it hasn’t had the opportunity - chances are connections are just trying it out after a run of good form at a lower level. Don't be fooled.

It's a different case for three-year-olds. Only the better young gallopers are usually given the chance at WFA and the weight scale puts them in with a real chance if they're any good. If they haven't made the grade by the time they're four, put a line through them.

The early spring WFA events can be a trap, with good, fit handicappers often getting into the money before the silk brigade return from their spells. These horses can often run well in Listed and Group 3 races like the Sir John Monash Stakes or Bletchingly Stakes but will struggle when the Group 2 and higher standard races come around in early September. The proven gallopers are well and truly primed by . the time acceptances are being taken for Group I races like the History proves this and, unlike restricted class races we bet on every day, this can be confirmed just by browsing through the Miller's Guide or surfing the net.

You need only to go back one year to see what sort of horse you should be backing in our spring WFA races. Dantana beat Ruby Slipper in the 2003 Monash but when the sprints got to Group 1 level, the genuine WFA gallopers were winning including Spinning Hill, which won her second successive Manikato Stakes.

Consider the winners of just last year's main spring WFA races. Lonhro collected a string of wins culminating with the Caulfield Stakes, a race invariably won by champions. Thorn Park took out the Premiere Stakes in Sydney, Natural Blitz claimed the Feehan and Mummify won the Underwood Stakes. Imagine backing a good handicapper to beat any of those gallopers - you may as well just throw your money away.

The Caulfield Stakes provides a good guide to why you don't want to bet on handicappers in WFA races - even though there are plenty running around in them. The recent honour roll includes Lonhro the past two years, Sunline before that and Northerly in 2001 while the 1990s featured winners the calibre of Might And Power, Filante, Danewin, Juggler, Rough Habit, Naturalism and Shaftesbury Avenue. Every one is high calibre WFA and most earned the right to be labelled champions.

The Craiglee Stakes, run in early September, is right on the crossroads and sometimes won by good but not great horses. This is often because the brilliant interstate types - Lonhro comes to mind yet again - are still racing in the quality Sydney events.

The Group 2 race has been won by champions Northerly and Mahogany in the past decade and outstanding types like Jeune, Sky Heights and Mannerism but Native jazz, best known as a good staying handicapper, won an average 2001 version.

It's a matter of being discerning and not falling for horses because of their honesty and their recent good form.

Variables such as seasons with a limited number of absolute class gallopers may make picking winners difficult in early spring WFA races but, from mid-September onwards in Melbourne and almost always in Sydney, only the silk department win at this level. Remember ... weight-for-age horses win weight-for-age races.

The rule is simple. Back only WFA winners and three-year-olds in the WFA races at Group 1 and 2 level.

This trifecta system has served me well for years:
1st - WFA winners at Group 2 level and above plus three-year-olds
2nd - WFA winners, placegetters, three-year-olds
3rd - WFA winners, placegetters, three-year-olds and non-WFA Group 1 and 2 winners Streamline it to suit your budget but never include any horse that hasn't earned the right to be included.

By Shane McNally