I have often wondered why so many punters fail to study harness racing form. I should have realised that it's all due to a lack of education. Not on the punters' side but on the harness racing officialdom side.

It's a fact that there are more 'form abbreviations' in harness racing than in the other two racing codes. Dog racing is simple to follow compared to harness racing.

It's the bewildering array of abbreviations that surely has the majority of punters fleeing after sighting an official formguide for harness racing.

Take, for example, the following: BSU, OPS. Now, I am sure that 99 out of every 100 punters would not have a clue what these initials stand for in the formguide. Finding them in a horse's formline would just stump the average punter.

They actually mean 'broke in score up' and 'outside position start'. With the abbreviations unmasked, everything starts to make a bit more sense, doesn't it.

And what about, for example, DW? It means 'dropped whip'. And then there are the really mysterious ones, like BOTF, CB, BCS, BAS, DKB, HOUP, NCRVS, and so on. Absolutely mind boggling stuff!

A friend of mine, who has been going to the trots for years, admits he is puzzled by many of the abbreviations. "I really have to think long and hard about some of them," he told me. Now, if an experienced punter like my pal is in trouble, what about the rest of the part-time punters? I suggest they just turn their eyes away.

I know you'll want to know what those above examples mean, so here they are, with their explanations:

BOTF   Bad out, trailed field
CB   Checked and broke
BCS   Barrier caught sulky
BAS   Broke after start
DKB   Dropped knee boot
HOUP   Hung out under pressure
NCRVS   No clear run vital stages.

These are just a few of an estimated 100 form abbreviations that you will have to get used to if you are to make full use of the form contained in guides like the National Trotguide and National Trotting Weekly.

Many of them are very relevant for punting endeavours. Take that NCRVS abbreviation for a start. Here you discover that the horse was unable to secure a dear run at a vital stage of the race. It can put a whole new emphasis on his finish position.

Others I think are important are as follows:

C   Checked
CD   Choked down
BG   Broke gear
FB   Fractious at barrier
FIAR   Found injured after race
FT   Flat tyre
FW   Forced wide
HU   Held up
INC   Inconvenienced
JS   Jumped shadow
LCRT  Last chance to race truly
LW   Locked wheels
OIR   Obtained inside run
PB Paced and broke
PH   Pulled hard
pp   Performed poorly 
QUER  Run queried
RF   Raced fiercely
RFS   Reared, fell at start
RW   Raced wide
4W   Four-wide (3W as well)
SFF   Stood flat-footed
SSS   Swung sideways at start
TIRE   Tired badly
UHT Unable to handle track.

I could go on, but space restricts me. The point I make is that if you're a punter keen to carefully study form on harness racing, then you MUST be aware of the form abbreviations ... otherwise you are going to be stymied in trying to accurately assess a horse's performance.

An example: Crewcut finished 6th at Fairfield (NSW) on March 30. The 9yo was beaten almost 10m, at 5/1, but next to his formlines were the initials NCRVSI Yes, no clear run at a vital stage.

This put his run into perspective. The punter was warned! Next start, a week later, Crewcut came out at the same track and won at 11/2.

It's these important form points that you need to learn about if you're to keep one step ahead. If you use my Striker computer programme, you can make allowances for unlucky runs, etc., in the special bonus points area, where you can allot points on a bonus and penalty basis.

If you would like a full list of the form abbreviations, you can get them from the NSW Harness Racing Authority in Sydney, and from the following Internet site: http://www.harness.org.au

By Rick Roberson