One area where many punters find a problem picking winners is on rain affected tracks. The winners often come from nowhere to win at big odds. If you were to apply a little body language to your pre-race selections, you'll find you can pull in a lot more winners.

Most horses enjoy light rain. Few like a downpour. On a rainy day at the track most horses would prefer to be nose to nose in a paddock. They walk around the mounting enclosure with eyes half shut, ears down and back to keep out the water and wind. They look towards shelter. Their mind is not on racing.

A wet tail is the pet hate of most horses. It becomes uncomfortable and heavy, and when swished, acts as a whip on the horse's body, unsettling them further. Even when a trainer wraps the tail to try and keep it dry, the horse instinctively tenses its haunches and upper thighs, clamping the base of the tail close to the hind quarters, trying to tuck the offending tail between its legs in an effort to keep it dry.

If, in the mounting yard and the pre-race gallop, you happen to notice a horse who is completely comfortable and seems to be at home in the rain, this is the horse to back. It is showing all the right signs of being able to handle the conditions, its mind is on the job at hand, not on trying to maintain a level where it feels comfortable and secure.

Body language also helps you find winners when the track is soft or muddy. Look over the horses as they come through the mounting yard. A horse may look out of sorts in the mounting yard, but picks up and starts to move comfortably and naturally when it finds the track is soft or muddy underfoot.

The horse's stride becomes slightly more deliberate than normal, the head is down and the ears forward. He plants his hind feet squarely for extra balance and moves through the mud with a balanced, determined walk. He gives every indication he wants to race, and finds the soft footing more of a help than a hindrance.

He becomes a far better prospect than the horse that looked sharp and ready on the firmer ground of the mounting ring, but who starts to show signs of distress and is unsure of its footing.

The ones to avoid show distress by holding their heads up, rolling their eyes. Their ears are held back or flick back and forth. They lift their feet quickly from the offending track and dance sideways with their tails popping. They are saying they have no confidence in their ability to handle the footing. Their fear of falling is greater than their need to race or please a jockey and trainer.

As I have mentioned in the past, the horse's greatest fear is of losing its balance.

It is well worth a look at what effect heat has on horses. No horse races well once the temperature exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit. It is fairly common on such days to not see one horse that gives the impression of being ready to race.

They will look overheated and dull and if high humidity is added to the high temperature, the horses look even less ready to race. They move around the mounting enclosure as slowly as possible, the main characteristic being lethargy.

The horse will be sweating heavily, its head hanging down, its flanks moving rapidly with nostrils flared trying to cool itself. The ears do not lie back and the tail does not slap with any authority, but swishes side to side with minimum effort.

Occasionally the horse will be seen kicking its hind leg, but otherwise displaying no other signs of being ready to race. On closer observation you will note that the horse appears to wind up the hoof with a circular motion before kicking out at the diagonal. This means the horse is having a problem with dripping sweat, which tickles the inside of its thighs it is kicking to shake off the discomfort.

An area of body language that is often neglected is the racing dimple. Looking at a horse from the rear you will notice a line, or slight crevice, running from lower down the horses thigh muscles to right up along its hind muscles to meet just above the horses tail. Only a fit and race hardened horse has this feature. Look for it.

The eyes are also important. You shouldn't be able see the whites of its eyes most of the time in the saddling yard and mounting yard. A slight rolling of the eyes when the jockey mounts is unimportant. It's when it displays the white of its eyes a lot that you should re-think betting on this animal.

The ears are an often neglected area when it becomes time to check out the horse. Its ears should point straight up, be pricked and alert. They should follow the noises around the horse. If there's a commotion from onlookers, the horse's ears should point in that direction to check it out and not be lifeless. The horse should be alert as to what goes on around it. A horse need not necessarily turn its head in the direction of the noise though it definitely should point its ears towards it to be aware of its surroundings and general environment. If the horse just stands there and doesn't give a hoot, scratch this animal from your betting program.

When deciding upon your selection at this stage, based upon Body Language, look for the horse with minimal sweating (a little bit of sweating between the hind legs, called kidney sweating is OK). If the horse is dripping sweat from under its saddle and/or neck, forget this horse.

Perhaps the most important of all observations is to determine if the animal is alert. If the animal calmly accepts its surroundings without unnecessary agitation, OK.

A good example of this is when the jockey mounts. An alert and fit horse will be ready to swing into action. It won't stand there with head at half-mast.

An important feature here is the horse's stride. A horse's hind hoofs, when galloping, should meet or go further forward than its front hoofs where the hoofs hit track.

It is often a good idea to check out the horses beforehand in the stables. It is easier to check out the horse's legs there. Look for any signs of bleeding on the lower legs or even simply red patches. These patches could be from an old wound that has not healed properly and could be sore for the horse. Sore legs are one thing not needed  before a race. If this is the case, then often the trainer orders the offending sore to be bandaged or covered with a patch.

You should give careful consideration to any horse with patches on the legs. Sometimes a horse hits its own legs together when racing. The resultant sore is patched. The vet permits these animals to race though I personally would seriously reconsider this horse in my betting program. Worse still is a fresh wound on one of the horse's legs.

Perhaps it kicked the leg when entering or leaving the horse float. A horse does not need sore legs before a race.

Careful examination of a horse's Body Language before a race can give you added knowledge and shed new light upon your betting program. Whether you are a professional or a granny out to invest a shilling for a bit of fun, you should not ignore this valuable facet of the industry.

Yours in Horse Racing, Steve McAllister.