Should we change the way we think when it comes to analysing form? Are you, perhaps, approaching form from the wrong angle? Can you re-think what you are doing to produce a better result?

These are all questions we must ask ourselves as we traverse life's path in the world of punting. I am constantly asking myself how I might improve my strike rate. I look at new ways of studying form, I examine new systems, I create my own systems, I devise staking plans that might lift my profit percentage.

The ongoing re-examination of methods and approaches is, I believe, all part of the long haul to become as good a bettor as you can be. Any punter who refuses to see the mistakes in his approach is asking for trouble - yet I would bet that most punters keep on making the same mistakes.

Yet a little self-analysis, a little more hard thinking, could well help them to erase the chinks in their punting armoury, and 'refresh' their betting to the extent that losses could be turned into profits.

You can take any angle of racing form and ask whether it could be examined any differently to what you are currently doing.

If, say, you are a ratings follower, then perhaps you are putting too much reliance on ONE set of ratings. Che Van der Wheil, one of Britain's most controversial racing experts, says in his book The Golden Years: " If you compare two private handicaps, for instance, they can differ to an alarming degree.

"Without going into the reasons for this, I do not wish to imply that ratings have no value, but I do subscribe to the view that they must be coupled with other aspects to have a worthwhile meaning.

"Test any set of ratings yourself and you will find a certain percentage of top-rated winners but because there is this variation between ratings I prefer to use two sets which are compiled on different lines. This enables me to judge the reliability of the figures in conjunction with other factors."

Van der Wheil's approach is to look closely at the top 5 or 6 'rated' horses as well as the same number of proven consistent horses in a race. This way, he says, you will be able to trap a lot of winners.

There is much to be said for looking at different ratings methods. For example, you could have one set based on speed, and another on form. (In this respect, you could use The Rating Bureau's Trak Line and Formline Gold services).

I know for a fact that when Trak Line and Formline Cold both indicate the same horse in the top 2 selections then the animal is usually a sound bet. Recent tests on provincial/ country TAB racing threw up a healthy set of figures as follows:

WINS: 29 from 105 bets.
PLACES (including winners): 68 from 105 bets.

These are strike rates of 27.6 per cent for the win and 64.7 per cent for the place. The average price of the winners was 3/1, so a level stakes profit was achieved of around 9.2 per cent. But astute punters could make much more profit than this with some creative staking.

Another angle to find the 'cutting edge' to selection is to adopt a fresh approach to each race. For example, how do you begin your form study now? Do you start with the favourite and work through the betting market? Do you begin with the topweight and work downwards?

Whatever you are doing, why not reverse it? If you usually start with the topweighted runner, then start from the horse at the bottom of the handicap and work up through the field. If you usually start by checking out the favourite, then start with the most despised horse in the betting.

By doing this, you might well discover that in the past you had not been giving enough credence to these horses, and that a lot of value bets had not even been considered.

Another angle is to 'weight' the various aspects of form. Perhaps in the past you have not given enough 'oomph' to the barrier draw, or to a horse's ability at the distance? Why not start a new approach by considering only horses which have won at the trip?

Or maybe you can confine yourself to horses which finished 3 lengths or less from the winner last start?

Click here to read Part 2.

By Peter Travers