When a day's racing is over, what do you do? If you've you've lost, you may well toss the formguide away, flop in an armchair and turn the channel from SKY to the ABC. You just don't want to think about racing for a while.

If you win, of course, you're more than likely to take off for a night out to spend some of your hard-earned spoils.

But what about when the euphoria or the gloom has gone? What then? Isn't that the time for reflection? A time for looking back on what you got right and what you got wrong? A time for seeking answers?

It's what I do after every raceday. It's my post-mortem time. I lock myself away in my office, get the video replays ready, spread the formguides on the desk, and then I go through each and every race at the major centres.

It's a case of "how on earth did that horse win?" and trying to provide the answers. In many races it can be easy. In others, it's hard to find a valid reason as to why a particular horse happened to be able to win.

What I do is to try to learn from what I find. It's amazing how many little things can be noted as you examine the form of winners. Those little things that you may have missed before the race suddenly leap off the page and laugh at you!

Let's look at an "easy" one, Shogun Lodge's win in the Queen Elizabeth Stakes over 2000m at Randwick on April 28. Now this was a Group I race at weight-forage. It's important to keep this in mind.

Shogun Lodge fitted the bill for a horse capable of winning such a race. He'd won a Group 2 race at wfa three runs before, he'd run 2nd in the Group 1 wfa George Ryder Stakes two starts back and at his latest start he'd run 2Dd of 20 in the Group 1 Doncaster Handicap at Randwick, coming from 14th on the turn over the 1600m trip.

No reason to be surprised by the fact that Shogun Lodge was able to win the race. As added elements he was a winner three times and a placegetter five times at the track (from 13 tries), was a winner at the distance and was having his fourth run back from a spell.

What's the lesson to be learned from this winner? Well, I guess it's that we should never shy away from the obvious. Shogun Lodge had impeccable credentials. It was this horse to which the other runners had to be measured.

The result of the Sydney Cup (3200m, Group 1) at Randwick that same day also saw victory go to a horse that had to be among the top few chances on form. My Prudent had run placings at his last three starts, the most recent being his 3rd in the 2000m Easter Cup at Caulfield on April 14.

Mr Prudent had been finishing off his performances in shorter races very well, so it was no real surprise that he would be able to run on and produce the stamina required to win a 3200m race. I guess we could also take into account the "open secret" that 84-year-old trainer George Hanlon had specially prepared him for the Cup.

It's rare for Hanlon to have a horse in Sydney, so that was a key point to take into account.

It's at this point that I must confess that I passed over Mr Prudent in favour of the Kiwi mare Giovana. She, too, had solid credentials for the Cup, but as things turned out she was unable to stay the distance. Glen Boss gave her the perfect ride and was confident of winning 600m out, but inside the 200m it was patently obvious that Giovana had had enough, while Mr Prudent was starting to power home.

A most interesting winner that day was 20/1 chance Century Kid in the 1200m T.J. Smith Stakes. When his form is examined, it's very hard to understand why most punters were prepared to discard his chances.

The 3yo had won his latest two starts - the Listed Munrob Quality over 1300m on March 31, and then the 1400m South Pacific (Listed) at Randwick on April 14. In both races he was in the first two throughout and showed grit to fight on well under pressure.

He'd won two from three at Randwick and had raced three times at the distance for a win, a 2nd and a 3rd. He was drawn well in gate No 4, had Len Beasley aboard and came from a stable in form, that of Graeme Rogerson.

So, certainly there were enough elements there to suggest that Century Kid was much more than a 20 /1 chance, and yet that was the price on offer.

Of course, the race was a hard one. There were other runners with equally appealing claims to being potential winners. The point is, though, that if you dug into the form, Century Kid had as much chance as any of them of winning the race.

A friend of mine selected four chances in the race, and one of them was Century Kid which he gleefully backed at the long odds. He thought it was money for jam.

Let's look now at a filly that won at a double-figure price at Caulfield on April 28. I refer to Queen Carey, who got home in the heavy ground over 1100m in a 3YO Handicap.

At first glance, it would have been easy to ignore the filly. She had run 11th of 16 at Sandown over 1400m at her previous outing and 12tli of 13 at Hawkesbury over 1400m on March 15. The key race, though, was her win four starts back over 1200m at Caulfield on February 17.

Even more important, however, was her ability to handle WET conditions. She had raced three times on slow going for two wins. Add to this the fact that she was a Caulfield winner, and you could start to think very seriously about her putting in a form reversal.

I point out this aspect of form because too often, as punters, we tend to complain about a longshot winner, but fail to determine for ourselves the "clues" that may have led to us picking it as a selection.

In Queen Carey's case, then, we had several positives:

  1. She was a winner at the track,
  2. She had very good wet-track form;
  3. She was fit enough, with five runs under her belt since early February;
  4. She was back to 1100m after racing over an unfavourable 1400m trip three times in a row.

Was it enough to say that she would definitely win the race? Well, no, but it was enough to incline any thinking punter into at least putting her into the main chances.

Were you putting together a trifecta multiple, it would have been a rash move to have left her out of calculations, especially considering that she was available at generous odds. From these examples, I think you can get the drift of what I'm on about. MY personal research sees me taking notes of various remarks in my copies of Best Bets, and then adding them to my "Black Book" file on the RaceQuest website. Thus, whenever the horse runs again I am reminded of my thoughts about it, and I can take them into consideration for the new race. Additionally, and more importantly, it's all part of a learning curve. In this game, you never stop learning new lessons. To plot the future, you must be aware of what has happened in the past because therein lies all the clues to what will happen.

So, do yourself a favour. Examine the formlines of winners, work out why they won, why you could have chosen them, and you'll soon have a better understanding of form as a whole.

By Brian Blackwell