It can sometimes be a frustrating task to track down form information. Often it can mean leaping from one part of the guide to the next and very many times you just can't find what you want.

Using my newly-installed Rating Bureau Winline program I realised the other day just how lucky I am to have all the required information at my fingertips. But I know most punters don't have a slick computer service like this one, and have to make do with 'pen and ink' and the paper formguides.

But, when you're betting on Wednesdays and Saturdays you can access most important form factors at a glance. Both the Sportsman and Wizard provide 'at a glance' chart sections which incorporate a range of vital factors that you will need to make sensible selections.

Let's take the Sportsman's charts as an example: Here you have a separate section from the actual formguide, with charts for each race to be run in the four main States. There's an analysis of the four best chances at the left; below this is the Class Factor panel which tells you the runners that are up or down in class.

As well as this, the chart gives you a Speed and Fitness section, divided into sections headed: Likes To Lead, Races Handy, Gets Back Early, Freshened Up, and Trialling Well. This is an excellent guide and will enable you to sum up which horses are going to make the pace and which will be getting back and running on.

The main chart contains some really pertinent information and my advice is that you never make a selection in a race until you've had a look at it.

Reading from the left the chart gives you the following information: post position, weight to be carried, number of starts, number of wins, win percentage, number of places, place percentage, average prizemoney figure, days since last run, course record. distance ability. wins and placings on fast, good, dead, slow and heavy going.

You can learn a lot in a flash about any runner just by a glance or two at the chart details.

How do I rate each slice of information? Well, I think the main three things are, in order:

  1. Average Prizemoney Figure
  2. Course and Distance Ability
  3. Win Strike Percentage

It's good to use the prizemoney average as a guide to a horse's class, though always safer to use it when each runner has had 10 or more starts, otherwise the average can be askew.

For some time I have been playing around with a system that takes into account key factors such as those found in the charts. It's aimed at backing longshots and it has paid off rather handsomely m recent times. I use it as an adjunct to my usual ratings approach.

The system is as follows:

  1. Consider only those runners who are resuming after a spell (65 days or more).
  2. Horse must have won at the track and/or over the distance. If no wins, then placed t and d.
  3. Horse must have a win strike of 20 per cent or more.

Now it's amazing just how many winners and placers this little system can pull in. For a start, you don't have many runners to check, and all you need to do so is contained in the charts in the Sportsman (or Wizard).

A recent example or two: At Randwick on February 10, Destruct was resuming in the final race, for mares, after being off the racing scene for 210 days. Her win strike rate stood at 29.4 per cent. Her course record showed 2 wins at Randwick, while she had no wins or placings over the race distance (though only one start at it).

Here, then, was a classic system bet: A horse resuming from a spell with a sound win strike rate and winning ability at the track. Destruct won at 20/1.

Another qualifier in the same race was Electronic (resuming after 95 days, 26 per cent win strike, 3 wins at the track). She ran 2nd to Destruct at 7/1. What a great quinella!

Saintly was another system selection at the same meeting. He was coming off an 84-day break, had a 44.4 per cent win strike and had won twice over both track and distance. He won at 3/1 after much better odds were bet overnight.

Yet another winner that day was Catalan Opening, who was returning after 98 days, had a 20 per cent win strike rate and had been placed over both track and distance. Catalan Opening won at 13/2.

At Sandown that same day, Danasinga filled the bill and won at 5/1. This one was coming back after 161 days off, had a 25 per cent win record, and had placings at both track and distance.

My suggestion is that you operate this system on Saturday racing only at Sydney and Melbourne tracks. You won't get many bets. Make a price cutoff point at around 5/1.

You'll land lots of great winners and placegetters!

By Mark Merrick