"You gotta cut up rough if you wanna get square in this game," an old harness racing man once told me. What he meant in his cussy way of speaking was simple: Get rid of the no-hopers in a race – and then set about picking the likely winner.

The first thing that needs to be done when you are faced with a field of pacers is to isolate the main chances from those that stand little chance.

One way to kick things off is to put aside all those runners which are (a) not tipped by any of the experts in your tipping panel and (b) not on the first four lines of pre-post betting.

When you look at the runners unfancied in the market, pose the question: Why are they being written off? In many instances, it will be immediately apparent. Poor form, outclassed, bad draw plus the other two factors, and so on.

To be able to delineate between runners, why not draw up your own set of 'contender rules'? Make it clear when a horse is going to be discarded and when it is going to be retained for further consideration.

You might decide that a horse's win strike is some guide. If a horse has a win strike below 12 per cent, then that's not a good sign. It needs some very pertinent factors to make anyone consider such a horse. In a few cases, you might decide it needs to be rated among the chances (perhaps a couple of very strong recent efforts).

Then there are those horses whose recent form is simply not good. Maybe they've had half a dozen runs and failed to get closer than 4th or 5th. It is a relatively easy task to drop such horses, provided you are satisfied they are not dropping sharply in Class.

I have always found that a horse's last two outings provide more of a clue than anything else to its prospects in the current race. So pay close attention to these two runs.

My Striker selection program zeroes in on the last two starts by examining the Mile Rates in those races, and then, for beaten horses, working out exact Mile Rates run.

You might not want to go to such lengths. There are other ways. If a horse has not finished in the first five at its last two starts, you should be able to discard it. Form from 6th and worse is not good form. Check out any 'bad luck' in the running to see if there is a case for a horse's inclusion.

You will find it so much easier to study form if you can sift out the roughies and concentrate your attention on the positive aspects of form.

You should be looking for runners which have 1st, 2nd and 3rd form at their last two starts, and which are now reasonably well-fancied. You should seek out those runners with solid win strike rates to their names.

As I pointed out in our December issue, you have to restrict your analysis in a race, otherwise you will simply be wasting precious time and effort on no-hopers who just aren't worth your time.

In the Fancy Figs Plan, I suggested you restrict yourself to horses listed at 12/1 and under in pre-race betting.  Since then, I have had several letters from readers who have tested out the plan and have discovered that it works very well.

One reader, L.K. of Strathfield, NSW, told me that he cut back the 12/1 price restriction to 7/1 and is quite happy with that. He reports that he hasn't lost one winner by the change! He certainly saved himself some work.

A second reader, John from Kensington in Sydney, tells me he has operated Fancy Figs in conjunction with The Striker and says he really improved his strike rates by comparing the top-rated selections of each approach.

"When both Fancy Figs and The Striker select the same horse on top I regard it as a special bet and I double my usual stake," says John. "So far, it has worked out extremely well." Like L.K, John also cut back on the number of runners to be analysed in Fancy Figs by restricting his study to those horses selected in the tipping panels of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Telegraph-Mirror.

This, of course, was at Harold Park meetings, but this track is currently closed for renovations and remodelling.

John's approach is interesting in that it relies on the views of four or five experts as to which horses he looks at. I still rather favour the betting market restriction, whether you choose 7/1, 8/1 or 12/1 as the cut-off point.

But, if something works, like it has for John, why worry!

Those of you who want to eliminate no-hopers by your own form analysis should simply keep in mind what I have said here about the likely longshots. Poor form, low win strike rates, bad draws, even poor drivers - all are factors that have to be accommodated.

NEXT MONTH: Rick Roberts reveals a new system that picks winners by a unique ratings method. This is a brand-new system which can revolutionise the way you look at harness racing!

By Rick Roberts