Jumping races still offer great opportunities for punters to make handsome profits- because the form standard is high. In this absorbing article, PPM's Jon Hudson tells you all about how to profitably follow the jumpers.

Jumping races are shunned by most States in Australia, and by most punters. Proof of this can be gained by a study of the win and place pools for jumps races, which are invariably much lower than for flat races.

This situation, I believe, results from a lack of understanding. The fact is that jumping races require only a slightly different approach in order to make profitable selections. My own study of hurdle and steeple races has convinced me that there are usually not more than THREE outstanding form horses in each race.

Separating them is a simple procedure. So for this reason alone, punters should seriously consider a determined approach to jumps betting.

I have drawn up a selection approach which I have proven to be successful. It requires some time, but any punter worth his/her salt, who is intent on making money and getting on top of the game, should be prepared to put in some detailed form work. If you're not, then it's likely you'll end up a loser, no matter which field of racing you participate in.

A few points initially: If we take into consideration only those horses which raced and jumped well at their previous two starts, the possibility of mishaps is reduced to a minimum. Good formful horses rarely come a cropper.

We have to adopt a different approach on 'beaten lengths' in regard to jumps racing. We have to apply a more lenient approach, given that the jumpers race over long journeys and so are likely to win, or lose, by more lengths than flat gallopers.

Tipster handicappers like myself have individual standards regarding beaten lengths. Few consider a horse beaten more than 10 lengths is acceptable. But after much research and observation over a period of some years, I have come to the conclusion that ALL horses beaten less than 14 lengths may be considered as 'contenders' in a race.

The actual positions, or lengths off the leaders, are not all that important in the running of a race. Many horses take the lead and stay there on sufferance, so as a result the actual 'speed' in these jumps races isn't too important.

I'll now go straight into the rules of the jumps' selection method. Study them carefully.

The horse, to be a qualifier, must have finished Ist, 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th in both its most recent two jumps starts (ignore flat races). (1 will call the latest race the '9 race and the second-last start the 'B' race). City and country races can be considered. If a horse has had only one jumps start in its career then you can qualify it as long as it meets the last start '9 race rules.

The horse in its '9 race must have been a winner, OR if placed 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th must have been beaten LESS than 14 lengths. The lengths beaten margin in the 'B' race is not considered.

The horse must have raced within 31 days of its present race. That is, the 'M race must have been within a period of 31 days from the present date. The month-stretch for the jumpers is that they have fewer opportunities to race-unlike flat gallopers-so the time limit has to be extended from the normal preferred seven to 14 day lapse.

The starting price of a horse at its most recent 'X race must have been 20/1 or lower. If it started at, say, 33/1 it is discarded, no matter whether it qualifies on the previous rules.

If there is more than one final qualifier, you can, if you wish, give preference to the horse which is at the shortest  price 'm the market. If prices permit, you can back more than one horse, preferably the first two in the market. I do  suggest that if you have a contender at very good odds-especially those at double figures-that you back them on an each-way basis. Quite often they will bob up. You also should consider linking all final qualifiers in quinellas.

Let's look at a recent test of this selection method, the Breville Cup Day Hurdle (3200m) at Flemington on November 7, last year.

The final qualifiers were Sharp As, Tassie's Guest, Ebeli Show, Spend A Dollar and Sir Clint. Sharp As had won its last two starts and had last raced 12 days previously. Tassie's Guest had run on the flat at its most recent outing so that race is ignored, and we then look back to its previous outing when it won a hurdle race at Murray Bridge. Before that (its B race) it was 3rd in a hurdle at Murray Bridge, so it qualified okay.

Ebeli Show was a last start hurdle winner at Geelong, and had finished 2nd in a Moe hurdle at its previous start, beaten less than 2 lengths. Spend A Dollar had run 5th at its second-last start in a hurdle race at Cranbourne and had then finished 2nd in a Geelong hurdle, beaten 10 lengths (well within the 14 lengths' qualifying margin). Sir Clint had finished 5th in a hurdle at Werribee at its last start (beaten 9.5 lengths) and before that had run in a flat race, which is ignored. At its third last start, a hurdle, it won at Flemington (this becomes its B race).

One point to remember when assessing 'days since last start' is to always take the date of the actual last start, be it a jumps or flat race.

So, our Cup Day Hurdle field was reduced to five chances. The outright pick on 'price' was Sharp As, which finished 2nd at 9/10, beaten 0.3 lengths in a slogging finish. But, of course, the winner was Spend A Dollar at 20 /1! What a great win for the method.

The other selections finished as follows: Ebeli Show (8th, 5/1), Tassie's Guest (12th, 20/1) and Sir Clint (9th, 25/1). So we could have backed all horses in the race, and only Sharp As would have left us in a losing situation had he won.

The method also landed the quinella, another sign of its power and strength in sorting out solid bets in the hurdle and steeple races.

Another sample: The Cambridge Press Hurdle at Bendigo on November 15 last year. In this there was only one qualifier, Mallee Bronze, which ran 3rd at 7/1. I have found that when the system throws up just one qualifier then the - horse is usually a most reliable each-way conveyance.

A third sample: The Hurdle at Kyneton on November 7, and again there was just one selection, Dobbin Deans, which finished 2nd at 13/4, beaten a nose.

A fourth sample: The Cup Hurdle at Werribee on November 1. The final qualifiers were Monsoon Magic, World Bank, Pride Of Kingston, Sir Clint, Dave and Human Nature. Pride Of Kingston won at 9/2, Dave was 2nd at 7/1 and Monsoon Magic ran 3rd at 2/1.

Once more, then, this approach paid off, with the winner at good odds, the quinella hooked and the trifecta landed. I think I have shown with these diverse examples how you can speedily reduce any jumps race to a handful of main chances. And it takes only a matter of minutes.

Let me close on a reminder note about information released two years ago in P.P.M. by Martin Dowling. Keen readers may recall Martin's articles in which he pointed out the enormous success of favourites in jumps races on the Melbourne metropolitan tracks.

The good news he had was that favourites in hurdle races at 5/2 or better produce staggeringly good results. In his test disclosed in the February, 1988, issue of P.P.M., Martin showed how there had been a 66 per cent win strike rate and a 100 per cent place strike rate.

This was in a limited test, but he tells me that the strike rate has remained good, though not at the high level of the initial test, but handy enough to still be producing good profits.

Martin says: "The simple fact is that good form is the reliable guideline for hurdlers. Check any month on the racing calendar and you're more than likely to find ample proof of the strength of winning favourites over hurdles or steeples.

"I know a lot of people say that it's too risky to bet on the jumps because so many things can happen to your selection. But I wouldn't get too worried. A minimum of horses actually fall or are pulled up. I've done an extensive survey and on average you'll find that the figures show that less than one horse per race comes to grief."

By following my selection plan, I am confident you will do really well with your jumps punting. The key factor to remember is that the plan is an easy one to follow and it won't take you more than a minute or two to sort out which are the main contenders.

You will rarely get more than four or five, and more often than not only one or two selections will pop up. There will be ample room to cover all the selections because the prices of many of them will be very good indeed.

By Jon Hudson