Fourteen years ago we revealed the details of an approach that used a "tick test" as a simple way of finding the likely best chances in a race. Despite all the changes in racing since then, that "tick test" remains as constant and effective a guide as ever.

I know that several of my colleagues at PPM use it as an essential tool in their form analysis, and at least two professional punters have admitted to using its elements in their overall form study.

In the years since we first published the "tick test" article, back in our September 1988 PPM, many readers have contacted us about it, either to report on their successes or to ask various questions about its implementation.

Basically, the "tick test" helps you to get to grips with 12 fundamentals of form analysis. It does very easily what can be a difficult job if you fail to address certain factors, or just can't get your act together when looking at form.

As we know, and as editor Brian Blackwell pointed out in his original article, the study of form is the essential ingredient to becoming a successful punter. Frankly, I don't know of any seriously successful bettor who doesn't hold the formbook in high regard. You ignore it at your peril.


Each of us has a personal approach to the formguide. You can skim over it, and plunge on a horse simply because it ran well last start, without taking into account any change in class, any change in the weight to carry, any change in the track venue or the state of the going . . . all those things that mean so much in the overall scheme of things when you are looking at, and trying to fully understand, the many components of the form for a race.

For "true" form analysis, it's a case of hard work will pay off. Sure, you need to spend a lot of time on the ins and outs of the form, or studying race replays, but it can pay off handsomely. Some of my best wins, and those of my colleagues, have come from in-depth research and very careful viewing of video replays.

Brian Blackwell validated this point so very well in May when his study of video replays alerted him to a horse called It's A Gun in Brisbane. He made it a Video View special for the PPD Club on the Internet, and at its second run after the "video tip" race it scored and paid $92! Now, how else could this horse have been discovered, and tipped, had it not been for Brian taking the time to watch the race carefully (sometimes many times) and spotting It's A Gun running into serious interference in the last loom?

The problem, of course, for many people is that trying to draw together all the strands of the formguide is a difficult one. It can be overwhelming.

Some of us use ratings. We compile our own or we use someone else's, perhaps from a service like that provided by Dennis Walker's The Rating Bureau. Each to his own. Many punters don't like to buy commercial services, no matter how effective they might be. They want to do it themselves but they lack the backbone to do everything they know is required.

It was a desire to help these punters that prompted us back in 1988 to publish the "tick test" because we saw it as an excellent way of enabling these punters to have a systematic approach to the form and one which would provide them with successful outcomes at a high percentage strike level.

The approach we recommend is as follows: Look at the day's racecard and divide it by two. Pick the four worst, or hardest, races and discard them. These will include any races where the form is limited or where a few or more runners are having their first starts.

Don't even think about betting on these races. Finding a winner is likely to be fraught with problems.

With the remaining four races, make another decision. Are you going to bet on all of them, or just a couple, or maybe three? Having done this, you then get on to the task of studying the form.

Go through the formguide carefully for EVERY horse, not just those high in the betting. Be on the lookout for improvers. Once you have assessed the form, we come to the main part of what this "tick test" approach is all about. The breakdown of this form study in an understandable pattern.

Decide on the seven or eight runners in each race which you consider to be the key prospects.

Once you've done this, you go to the "tick test" panel. You use "ticks" on the various factors
associated with your chosen contenders and when you have completed this process the horses
with the most ticks are deemed to be the BEST CHANCES in the race.

In other words, you have completed a check of the key factors - the vital factors - and you have come up with the prime prospects. No more mucking about. No more tossing up here and there. The "tick test" spells it out exactly.

You have the answer as to whether one horse enjoys an advantage over another. Believe me, the accumulation of the "tick test" factors for a horse can be a telling sign of its win ability.

If there is no distinct margin between the tick totals for the contenders, this is a sign of a very open race and it's a signal to act with some caution from a betting perspective.

For a standout bet, there has to be a definite margin of ticks separating the horse from its rivals.

So, there it is, your chance to use some plain old commonsense to sort out the best prospects in a race. Eliminate the bad races to begin with, study the form, find your seven or eight main contenders, and then put them through the "tick test" formula.

You'll find with this approach that you begin to have fewer bets but the bets you do have will be on GOOD CHANCES. Why? Because you've done your homework and you have used the power of the formguide to sort out each horse from the other.

Think carefully before applying a tick. Make sure it deserves to be ticked. This is a test of your judgement and is going to be critical in the final wash-up.

By Alan Jacobs