Of all the racetrack factors none is as important as the fitness of the racehorse you have under scrutiny for a possible wager.

The mighty horses of the past have all been beaten by horses several lengths inferior in ability, simply because the inferior horses were fitter. So, how does the punter determine the level of fitness in their choices assuming they cannot be at the racetrack and do not have the chance to view their selections in the parade ring?

Punters really only have current form and the spell dates of each runner to peruse, which are freely available in the daily newspapers and any trackwork or barrier trial information as published in certain specialist form newspapers such as The Sportsman.

In writing this article I am going to concentrate on the tools the average punter has available as per the daily newspaper they would normally buy for the news of the day and I will assume the punter will keep the form guides for future reference.

There are six areas relevant to “spell dates”; that is, the days since they last raced, which I believe can help the punter glean enough information to make a relatively informed decision whether to back a selection or to determine that alarm bells are ringing to suggest caution might be the better option than betting.

The areas are:
a)    seven days or less
b)    8-14 days
c)    15-20 days
d)    21 days exactly
e)    22 - 28 days
f)    29 days and longer

Firstly, it must be remembered that for a trainer to accept with a horse after a break of only seven days or less, it should be considered as a deliberate action because there are tight deadlines the trainer has to meet between the acceptance stage. He must also determine if the horse has recovered from its last race.

This tight deadline is particularly evident if the horse is backing up after five days or less. It is one thing for the trainer to seemingly signal he thinks the horse is fit and ready to front up again but two factors have to be considered before we madly rush in and start betting.

Some trainers are extremely proficient at the short back up methodology while others just send them around without really considering the second part of the equation, which is the horse.

Quite simply, some horses have an ability to front up seemingly week after week (Adavale Hornet in Queensland is a perfect current/recent example), and perform creditably while others do not have such a constitution and require at least two weeks away from competitive racing.

It is not unusual for a trainer to report after a horse has backed up quickly and has run poorly that “perhaps the quick back up did not suit the horse”, which is no help to the punter but at least it’s an acknowledgement or excuse for a defeat worth recording.

In order to hazard a sensible guess about a horse’s ability to back up quickly, we need to consult it’s past performance. If it has shown in the past it can front up twice in one week or less in the appropriate class relevant to today’s race, we can back this horse with confidence.

If it has no positive quick back up form lines or has never attempted this feat, we should look at the last run in some detail and attempt to determine if the run ranged from an easy win to a hard, whip slogging finish.

If a horse attempting a quick back-up has had a seemingly hard run without any prior quick back-up runs, then this would seem to be a negative factor worth really worrying about.

The area of the quick back up has been the subject of many a system but the system falls down if the above considerations are not factored in as well as the ability of the trainer. For the patient punter who