So you study the form, listen to the radio and watch the money on the tote. Have you ever studied a horse in the mounting yard and known what to look for?

The "House Full" sign would be hung at the gates of Australia's racetracks every Saturday if punters ever realised the answer to the mystery called "the next race" is often revealed in the stalls and the mounting yard.

There are two valuable considerations to successful selecting ... the horse's form, and the horse itself. Ratings and tips can be helpful but no matter what you do, to be successful you must enjoy an edge. For years I have been developing my edge by "reading the racehorse" instead of the race book.

In this article I'll help you to understand that "reading the racehorse" is not a difficult task when you know what to look for. Coupled with detailed form analysis it provides a powerful edge to selecting the right horses to wager on.

Study the form in Sportsman, find a good Internet-based service or, better still, get yourself a good handicapping program from a reliable source of racing data but most importantly get to know the horse. Maximise your edge by discussing your form findings with someone you trust, but get to the races and "talk to a horse".

As a successful Brisbane punter I wouldn't miss a race meeting on a Saturday where I can walk, talk and observe horses and people.

Trainers and strappers proud of their charges will chat about the individual quirks and often it's the little things that provide a huge edge when assessing the chances in a race.

Last week I was asked what I look for in a horse. I jokingly replied that this is not dissimilar to spotting an attractive person in a crowd. Well, who hasn't had their glance arrested at some time by a striking individual who just happened to stroll into the line of vision?

Stop and think about that for a moment. What takes your interest when such a person catches your eye?

At Randwick one day a well dressed woman of thirty-something caught me staring intently at a horse and putting ticks and crosses in my race book. She asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was selecting the probable winner by assessing the physical attributes of the horses in the mounting yard and of course she immediately became interested.

I asked her what she looked for in a partner, and after looking intently at me to check I wasn't making mischief she gave me the usual "beefcake" rundown. Same flung in a horse, I said, tall, nice legs, shapely bottom. broad shoulders, and nice eyes.

She thought I was cracking jokes. But, if you can get your head around the fact that a horse is a mammal, like us, suckles its young, protects them, as we do, maintains a herd instinct, as we do, you will start to realise that horses are not that difficult to "read".

Where they differ from us is that they are, at the base of their individualism, a reactive entity. A horse is made up of some five hundred kilograms of muscle and bone but uses flight for protection. Horses have a relatively small brain compared to the immenseness of the body.

A trainer's job is to get them fit, healthy and, if they can, to keep them happy and by doing this they simply enhance their winning prospects.

The jockey's job is to put them in a winning position and to get the best out of the horse. However, primarily the horse must be up to the job. So speaking of physical attributes I judge horses in the same way I judge people. Is the horse fat or skinny, is the hair glossy? These things add to my decision-making process.

There are two sides to the horse. As with people they have personalities, and I look to see if a horse is physically and mentally capable of doing the job I expect of it several times leading up to a race.

This is a somewhat subjective discipline and my opinion can vary. If, after you have followed this series, you find yourself at the track looking over the fence, remember it's then a question of numbers. I promise that eventually one will leap out at you and it will galvanise you. You too will become addicted to winning money.

Take notes of what you see and build a library; that way you will begin to recognise changes in the individual horse as they occur. Here is one of my secrets. I start by looking for the serenity factor.

Just believe me, it goes a long way in determining a winning prospect. My dear mother always told me that the eyes are the mirrors of the soul.

In the horse we need to check interest levels and simply by watching what they are watching will give us some guide as to their interest levels.

The horse who is interested will come in looking into the crowd. Sometimes I have seen a horse turn his head right around for a real good look. I take that as a positive sign.

These horses are happy to be there - as happy schoolchildren enjoy more success at school, so too will an interested horse give more on the track.

Start with the head region. For me, the eyes and the ears are excellent barometers and these are all on the head.

Check for a sense of pride and self-confidence; you will detect this in the way a horse carries itself, head up, eyes looking around and ears pricked. 

I don't concern myself even when there are twenty runners in the yard because I will have eliminated several prospects as winning chances when doing my form analysis.

But when confronted by horses trained by top trainers I personally find it easier to look for the negative. Here is yet another of my secrets ... I look for symmetry. I don't want to see the head twisting like the horse is suffering a toothache or that the head is tossing madly. More often than not these horses would prefer to be at home in the stable.

A classic negative is where all those factors are clearly evident in a horse. A recent example in Brisbane is De Canny - at her first two runs this time in she has done all these things and still run fair races.

When she comes in focused it will be evident by the way she is not tossing her head, she is not trying to get out of the bridle and her ears won't lay flat. She will take an interest in her surroundings, for a change.

Another example of low interest levels can be seen in older horses who have not won for a while. They don't toss their heads, in fact, they don't do anything.

Like little old dears they just plod along and do not lift the head up for anything except the feed bin. They carry their heads so low they risk gravel rash on their nose. They don't look at anything and their ears register nothing. I call it the old- horse look. Watch for it and beware.

I noticed a classic positive recently in Brisbane with Fetes Calantes. She walked in calmly, head up and ears pricked. Her head shifted ever so slightly to take in something that had caught her attention; she was looking into distant horizons.

No energy was lost here and she was able to call on all of it to get the job done; the winning margin was tight but she produced under pressure and to do that the attitude was right. She presented the right attitude in the enclosure.

Attitude can be assessed by a study of a horse's head during the pre-race parade. It has nothing to do with being fit but horses with a good attitude have multiplied my punting dollar for many years now.

Next month I will delve into the topic of determining fitness and the images will start to develop for you and you will start to look for patterns in your horses.

Glen Ferguson has been involved in racing for 32 years. His father was a bush trainer and his brother was an apprentice jockey. Glen has worked as a strapper, a bookmaker's clerk, a barrier attendant and was a club steward at a Queensland bush track.

As a finance consultant in Brisbane, he prides himself on looking for ways to improve efficiency and maximise profitability. For years, he has watched horses and "done the form" and says that what he does now, through body language, provides powerful support for form analyses.

His wife and two daughters, he says, love Saturday nights when they greet him at the door after the day's racing and ask: "Did you win?" They have learned not to as if he lose.

Says Glen: "I truly believe that body language can help any punter to make money at the races. I reached a point some time ago when I recognised the need to approach my Saturday's racing in a more concise manner, simply by doing what I have always done, by marrying all the things I knew. It's no longer a gamble for me, my satisfaction is gained from maintaining principles that I employ on a daily basis in my job."

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

By Glen Ferguson