Phil Purser edits the Just Racing website ( which contains a number of sections on various aspects of racing, including an excellent ratings guide to finding potential wet-track winners.

Videos are like sectional times…they have to be interpreted by a person with an eye for a horse.

With sectional times, just back the horse that ran the fastest last 600m out of every race last Saturday at its next start and you’ll go broke! Does that mean you can’t follow sectional times? No, but the average punter can’t interpret them, so he or she never spots the 66/1 horse that’s ready to win.

Understanding videos has a lot of similarities. I can give you $1,000,000 in the morning, but if you have no financial investment skills you will soon be broke again.

Remember Kenny Rogers’ song The Gambler: “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” How apt that is in gambling.

The main ingredient in watching videos is to have a fresh mind. One minor detail you miss through not being alert may cost you a $2,000 trifecta in a fortnight’s time.

There is no need to go looking for good runs on this first viewing; it is just to get a general overview.

I like to specialise in Brisbane racing. You are better off being totally knowledgeable on Brisbane than being one third knowledgeable on Brisbane, one third on Sydney and one third on Melbourne. That’s a case of “a little knowledge is dangerous”! 

I avoid betting in Melbourne (except at carnival time when I can line all the good horses up) because I find it almost impossible on any given non-carnival Saturday to line up the strong Victorian country tracks form, when they all meet in the city.

No, I can’t win there but I can win in Brisbane over a 52 week period. So, after the first viewing of the video replays of a meeting you’ve got a general idea of what led, what flew home, what was in strife in the run, which horse got hammered with the whip, which horses could have been ridden with better judgement (which equates to a nice way of saying which horse was “off /dead/pulled up/failed to be let run on its merits” etc).

Just because the stewards didn’t see a horse have an easy run doesn’t mean you can’t spot one. Always remember that wherever there is money there will be corruption, so racing yesterday, today and tomorrow will have certain horses that weren’t afforded every opportunity to win, from Bourke to Boulia, Broken Hill to Brisbane and Belmont to Ballina.

The trick is to be able to spot the ones who had “easy runs”. They’ve generally gone to the line with nearly a full tank of petrol. They’ll be back in the ruck. It’s hard to give a horse that’s sitting outside the leader an “easy run”. If the jockey doesn’t ride it out to the line, the stewards will see it.

The horse that ran 10th with a “full tank of petrol” could be a big price next start and he’ll probably finish in front (next time) of the horse that was hit 32 times with the whip all the way up the straight to go down in a photo.

That flogged horse’s system is now full of lactic acid; it should not start for another three weeks.

If they start it in seven days (after a flogging) it’s no hope, 14 days only a rough chance and after 21 days the lactic acid will be gone. You’ll often see a horse that can’t possibly win but is a short-priced favourite after a flogging. At Eagle Farm early in January, Rock of Mufasa got hit 27 times to win by inches and I knew that it couldn’t win at its next start because of that. It went to the Gold Coast the next weekend, sat third on the fence all the way and got trounced as a $2.20 favourite.

So do what I do, get a pad and pen and write down how many times these horses get hit (hard hits, not little swats). They never win next start because they’ve had a total gutbuster. Stupid owners with more money than sense may say to the trainer, “Oh it only got beaten a head so it’s flying, why not run it again next Saturday,” without realising the horse can’t keep going to the top of the mountain every seven days.

Mountain climbers don’t scale Mt Everest every seven days. When they reach the summit they stay only a short time, then descend. Similarly, a racehorse’s form will work its way up to the top of Mt Everest. Its form will then peak while it’s on the summit and then descend as it comes down the mountain, looking for a spelling paddock because it needs a quality rest, away from the rarefied air of the summit.

The trick here is to be with the horse when it’s on the summit; that’s the only time it’s got real profit in it. The average horse will stay on the summit for two or three runs, maximum. So make a note in a pad of horses that get flogged and count the times they get hit; over 20 hard hits by a senior rider is the kiss of death if that horse starts seven or 14 days later.

Educate yourself to watch leg action; you’ll soon start to see horses with a lovely leg action and others that don’t stretch out properly on hard tracks, ones that are arthritic or throw legs out from their own body (on head-on shots).

Good horses generally have a good leg action. In layman’s terms they can bend their knees properly and throw their front legs out correctly to complete a stride. An arthritic horse or a horse that has had knee chips removed may have a shorter, stiff and straight action. That’s something you learn from experience but the beautifully actioned horse will stand out like a beacon, as will the shuffling one.

Watch for horses that “travel well in the run”. Good horses cruise in the run; they have no trouble keeping up with their opponents. They might be back last cruising on the turn when the other jockeys are all starting to bustle their rides along. If you have a review of the Magic Millions 2yo at the Gold Coast from last January, then name the horse that “travelled” in the run? Remember only good horses or horses that are possibly ready to back, “travel in the run”. Slugs are pushed along the whole way.

If you answered “Sprung”, you agree with what I saw. She has never won a race, but if she doesn’t pay her way in life I’ll give up. She “travels” like a good horse…lovely action, throws her legs right out, holds her head right and in the Millions she cruised behind those good horses running along up front. She was having her third run in three weeks and lactic acid kicked in during the last 100m.

I have never seen a horse with a fluent action like it that didn’t pay its way in life. Don’t take all that the wrong way. I didn’t say it’s going to be a star, but it will, in life, be a very handy horse.

Developing “an eye for a horse” is a gift you either have or you don’t. All but 1 per cent of people don’t have the gift. That statement is borne out at yearling sales where all the supposed “experts” fight over owning a million dollar yearling, because of rubbish they’ll tell you like it’s got “great presence”, or they’ll say it’s got “great balance”, which I always like. When is the last time you walked past an “unbalanced” racehorse and it fell over in front of you?

So try to develop an eye to spot a good horse. Don’t believe what commentators or journalists say on the spur of the moment. We all say things on the spur of the moment we live to regret.

A race was run in Brisbane recently, won by Banabolda from Star Of Asia. One journalist wrote that “Star Of Asia should have won easily and ran second”. That’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it, but I say, after watching the video replay, that’s a lot of rot.

Star Of Asia followed the fence the whole way and sat fourth on the fence until well into the straight. She did not spend a penny in the run. The head-on shot in the straight shows just enough room for a horse to fit through on the fence, but she could not accelerate quickly to take the run. If she was travelling so well and was genuinely a good filly, she’d have charged through that gap. She then eases around heels, flies home and everyone says “get on her next time”. Like I always say, that’s the reason bookies drive Mercs. 

When watching videos it’s a good idea to discard bunched finishes. They will be a total waste of time. You’ll see a stack of good runs generally because they are an even bunch of walkers. You’ll never spot a good horse or the right one to follow next start in a bunched finish, unless it’s a fast run Group 1 Randwick mile, Caulfield Cup or a Cox Plate etc.

Don’t spend too much time watching staying races on normal Saturday replays. Carnival time is different. The 2400m race takes more than twice as long to replay and run as the 1200m race. The speed is more likely to always be on from the word go in a 1200m. You might pick up a good video run in a staying race and then the horse goes ordinarily next start because of a different pace being set from one run to another.

Changes to the pace in staying races can differ greatly from one run to the next. In Sydney recently Dante’s Paradiso was disadvan­taged by the slow early and middle sectionals of his staying event yet he still won – because he’s a top class galloper. Off a fast speed he would have won by 5 lengths pulling up.

Remember which horses are hard to load. Do you want to be on the horse that’s hard to load and plays up in the barriers when it draws barrier 1 and has to go in first in a 16 horse field? Similarly, it’s stupid to think that drawing 16 of 16 will help because it won’t be in there long! Now it’s at risk of getting trapped four wide. Just don’t back the horse. One day in the year it will get up on you; such is life!

Study the videos to know the racing pattern of each horse. Stewards know them off by heart almost; what will lead, where they’ll sit in the run etc, and so should you.

Don’t waste your time watching videos of horses racing on slow or heavy tracks. A heavy track at Eagle Farm is different to a heavy track over the road at Doomben. A horse that wins on a slow track at Eagle Farm today by six lengths may not handle a heavy track at Eagle Farm (same course) next start.

I would watch a Saturday Brisbane racing video up to 20 times in a week in full. On an eight race card, only five or possibly six races will be worth looking at fully. Two or three races will be run too slow to need investigating in their entirety. I’ll then go through individual horses in each of those five or six races.

I spend some 10 hours a week on those replays and may only come up with one horse to back next start out of a meeting. Sometimes I come up with no horses to back, but that’s no drama. Quality is far preferable to quantity.

Your video watching may on occasions appear a waste of time and money, particularly if you lose a few Saturdays in a row. Keep persevering. Not one punter in Australia wins every Saturday, even the professionals backing just one or two short priced ones per Saturday.

Look at winning over any 52 week period for even if you can simply achieve that, you will be ahead of 90 per cent of punters who habitually lose each year.

So in summary always remember with racing videos:

  1. To “interpret” what you see.
  2. Kenny Rogers’ famous words.
  3. Have a fresh mind, totally free from distractions.
  4. Watch the first viewing of replays as just an overview.
  5. Specialise in one State.
  6. Watch for horses having easy runs back in the ruck and ridden with no urgency when seemingly travelling well. Watch for horses that have been flogged with the whip hard 20 or more times by a senior rider as that’s the kiss of death next start.
  7. Realise when a horse has peaked as that’s the only time it’s got true profit in it. 
  8. Remember the names of horses with beautiful actions and/or those that travel well in a race. There will only be one or two a meeting.
  9. Discard bunched finishes (except Group 1 features where it is possible only a few lengths could cover seven or eight horses in ability). Discard races in which they do not run good time. Good time is considered to be within two seconds of the track record; that allows 12 lengths in distance, so after that margin they are either “walkers” or the race has lacked early speed.
  10. Don’t bother looking at slow or heavy track replays or taking much notice of normal Saturday (non-carnival) staying races.
  11. Don’t ever back horses that consistently play up at the barrier or in the barrier. 
  12. Remember racing patterns – be your own steward. Can four stewards around a track watch 20 horses? The answer is “no”, unless they are assigned five horses each and then get to watch the replay of each horse once. They don’t get time at a meeting to do that.

By Phil Purser