As a racing enthusiast, they don't come any keener or more qualified than Mark Shean. After all, the 32-year-old is grandson of the former great jockey Fred Shean, who, rode the 1938 Caulfield Melbourne winner Catalogue in the great double.

With that type of blueblood pedigree, Mark was always destined to become tangled in the sport of kings. These days his first love-race calling-takes a lonesome back seat because of lack of opportunities as only one Sydney radio station gives a fulltime TAB service.

Mark though is host for the Hoyts Video Replays of Sydney racing. The show Track Talk, does a comprehensive review of each week of Eastern States racing.

Coverage includes all Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane metropolitan racing. For each Saturday Sydney meeting, Shean gives subscribers a total post-mortem of each race, including stewards footage of head-on film of all stages of all races. (The only races excluded with stewards footage are when a jockey is suspended. For legal reasons, the races are with-held.)

Shean has been the Track Talk host for more than four years. Because of his previous involvement in racing as a form expert for two of Sydney's best known punters, Shean's expert opinions are widely respected-as are his forecasts on races.

But what does Shean look for in a race replay when trying to stab future winners.

Assess how the race was run, Shean said. By this, I mean, you have to determine whether the pace of the race was fast or slow, because certain horses are suited to certain conditions. So if the tempo is slow, then leaders are going to have an advantage. If a horse does come from well back and makes up a lot of ground in a slowly run race, then his run has been very good.

Basically, what you are looking for are the horses that weren't suited to the particular style that the race was run in. Yet they were still able to run a good race, so therefore their effort was very good. Because of the advantage of the head-on film through his Hoyts ties, Shean says he closely studies which horses have been trapped wide.

That is a fairly straightforward procedure due to the great technology that we have today with the videos, he said. It is very difficult for horses, on an unbiased track, to race wide and still win. My experience tells me that horses out wide without a cover-I call that being caught on a limb-rarely win. So I take particular notice of those horses and I am probably not too harsh on them when assessing their performance.

Shean said horses that do race three deep and battle on well are normally worth following. Horses that have to race in the breeze (without a cover or a smother) seem to get stirred up and it affects their chances. The next step Shean applies to his post mortem, is how the horse was ridden.

There are varying examples how this may be dissected, he said. But it is obviously important which horses get the good trail, never exert any extra energy, and the ones that have to make an extra run through the race to make up for lost leeway.

These are factors that have to be considered. If a horse is racing third on the rails, gets out at the top of straight, runs to a two lengths lead, and wins by a head, then you might say it was just a win.

The second horse, may have been slightly tardy at the start, had to make his run from the 800m, was pushed four deep at the home turn. In comparison to the winner, his effort may have been two lengths better-yet he was beaten.

How a horse is ridden can have a lot to do with barrier draws. Shean says this definitely applies these days because of the sudden emergence of track bias, which is the punters nightmare.

Take Rosehill for example, where track bias is a problem, Shean said. Now the horse drawn in barrier three, it has good natural speed, it is going to be with the leaders, it can accelerate when required, and you know it will get to the line fairly well, if all goes to script.

Well, if leaders are favoured on a biased track, then the barrier three horse is going to be hard to beat because leaders are going to have such a big disadvantage.

Conversely, a horse drawn in barrier 14 from the 1200m, which can be a hazardous start, may have a lot of pace drawn inside so its a fair bet he is going to be trapped wide, or he's going to have to be ridden for dear life to cross to lead or he is going to be ridden back in the field.

Under those circumstances, he's not the type you want to be putting your money on.

Then, Shean says, track bias, can work in the opposite direction. It could be a day where leaders are disadvantaged because the track is heavier near the rail.

No horses which normally race handy face an uphill battle to win whereas hones that, say, race midfield, get to the line strongly, are going to be best suited.

Men watching the replays where track bias is a factor, rather major allowances have to made, where you add for those not suited or subtract from those who are at an advantage.

Also, Shean added, the barrier draw today gets more inference from punters because races are run at slower paces than in the past. I cannot explain why, but you rarely get a genuinely run race these days, he said. Jockeys tend to hold up in the early stages, and for this, I'm surprised more riders don't show more initiative.

Actually, since Kevin Moses returned from Ireland he's had great success and I think a lot of this can be attributed to his flexible style of riding. If need be, Kevin will lead if the pace does not suit, and this is why he is such a great distance rider.

But with the pace not on in most races, that just adds extra importance to the barrier draw.

Shean feels maybe jockeys are tied down too much to instructions, but then again, he points out, some jockeys almost point blank refuse to lead.

For most punters, the biggest turn-off for the -Punt is wet tracks, but for the serious form students, such as Shean, it can often be a case of the wetter the better.

It gets down to how much work you want to put in, Shean said. With wet tracks, if you keep records, then they can be used for reference and it can lead to backing winners.

Myself, I give meetings that are rain affected a personal rating, such as H3 for a really heavy track, to H1, for not so heavy. I keep this rating on the photos that I retain from the Sportsman, which I find a terrific source when reflecting back on races.

The photos give you an instant guide to the depth of a particular race because you know straight away exactly what field the horse raced against and whether the form has stood up in the next few weeks.

As for preparing for a meeting, Shean says he puts in about five to six hours sifting through the form. He then may spend up to two hours replaying videos to double check on races of interest.

A lot of the work is done after a meeting when you review the day's events, Shean said. The actual form I do on a meeting is to work out the mathematics-which horses are well drawn, which are fairly weighted, who will be best suited by the way the race is likely to be run, and the many other minor factors that become a part of the assessment.

Also, I'll take into account gear changes. Sometimes a horse may have blinkers on for the first time and your assessment of the past may suggest to you he is going to benefit.

Sometimes horses wearing blinkers for the first time may be pullers so you tend to think the added gear may backfire.

But where Shean really applies his discipline is his ritual to watch the pre-race parade. He never misses the horses in the mounting yard, as he says this provides him with a good insight to a horse's fitness.

But it gets down to your own judgement, he said. But I find the parade especially beneficial for two-year-olds because you can see which ones are going to improve because they might be gross in condition.

There are the ' natural improvers then there are the lightly framed horses who are not going to improve. Also, looking at the horses can tell you which ones have peaked, and that's important for the future.

Probably, for most punters, the most crucial individual factor when it comes to a bet, is the jockey. Sure it is important, Shean said. The better jockeys win the most races because of their better skills. I'm a Mick Dittman fan because he's flexible with his tactics and he doesn't mind leading.

Also, it's a great feeling in a dose finish when you've got your money riding on Dittman. They don't often get beaten.

NEXT MONTH: Mark Shean suggests forming video syndicates among your punting friends.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Glenn Robbins