In a world which often seems to have gone computer crazy, there may well be a case to be made out by the average punter that everything is sending him a bit loopey. After all, even today it is a minority of punters who can afford a computer, and who have the knowledge to operate computer software as a horseracing selection device.

I'm afraid that the average Joe Blow punter still relies on his form guides, and the radio tipsters, to pick out his bets for the day. And, to be honest, he does get a lot of help via the excellent formguides which are available in this day and age.

But are the formguides, and the newspaper guides, enough? How can a punter, without the aid of a computer, set about establishing his own armoury of information? And where does the information come from? There are many inexpensive ways of accumulating information and keeping it in order which will appeal to punters without computers.

Firstly, imagine you are starting your betting afresh. You have decided to equip yourself with the best information you can gather. You have limited funds, but you do have the time to spare a half hour each day to acquiring the information, and 'filing' it. (Don't be put off by the filing aspect; it's not that hard at all).

It's important, always, to have results at your fingertips, and especially results which come with comments and photos. It's just as important to keep all these results and photos in the one file, so you can refer to them at any time. Where do you obtain such detailed results? There are many sources, and they are basically quite cheap.

If you wish to collect Sydney turn-and-finish photos, along with full details of each race result, as well as potted comments on how the main chances ran, then you need the Sportsman. It has such coverage of all Metropolitan Sydney meetings (as well as Melbourne and Brisbane, but more on them later).

You can, if you wish, use the Sportsman's Brisbane and Melbourne photos and results, but you can obtain better quality pictures elsewhere for these cities. You can pull out the double-page spreads of the Sportsman photos and results, and I suggest you file them by obtaining a sturdy backboard on which to place them, with string looped through holes in the board. As you obtain each spread of results you tie them to the board.

For Melbourne race results, complete with 800m, 400m and finish photos, you cannot beat the quality and detail of those contained in the Sporting Globe. You will need to buy both the Midweek and Weekend editions to get all city races ($5 a week), but the outlay is well worthwhile. Each race has a chart number, and you can check back on previous performances quite easily because the Globe has an index chart number next to each horse's name. For instance, Lusty Habit won a race on November 24, and you could immediately know that its previous city performance was on November 17, because this date, with race number, is printed in front of the horse's name in the result list.

For Brisbane turn and finish photos, your best bet is to obtain the Brisbane Sunday Mail newspaper. If you live in Queensland there is no difficulty in getting a copy, but if you live interstate you must make arrangements with your newsagent, or better still, take out a direct subscription with the newspaper. In this way, the newspaper is posted to you and you should have it delivered by the Tuesday or Wednesday of each week, in enough- time to make full use of it.

The Sunday Mail's turn-and-finish photos of the previous day's Brisbane meeting are first-class, and usually are accurately captioned. But the real bonus with this newspaper is that you get an excellent results service. Each race in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne carry just about every detail you want including complete margins from first to last, plus 'in-race' positions of each runner at the 800m and 400m mark. Full breeding is printed for the placegetters, and then there is a Comment section in which the race itself is discussed. This is followed by the Stewards' Report for the race.

The Brisbane Sun carries similar turn-and-finish photos, but not with such quality as the Sunday Mail. The Sun's results service, while good for Brisbane, is only basic for Melbourne and Sydney.

During the week-for midweek city meetings-it becomes more difficult to get detailed results, apart, that is, from the Sydney midweeks, which are covered in tremendous detail by both the Sydney Morning Herald and the Telegraph-Mirror. Both newspapers go to enormous lengths to give their readers an accurate summation of the midweek Sydney races. The first five runners home in each race receive a detailed comment, and the full stewards' reports for the meeting are run.

A typical comment about a horse in the midweek results is like this:

LOOKING FINE (F.B.1. Tagg & J.A. Johns) b f 3 by Good As Diamonds (IRE)-Classy 'n' Smart 52.5, 16 (L. Lunn) midfield throughout and worked home extremely well over the concluding stages, getting to the line solidly without threatening (33, 1000_..4th.)

You can see from this how detailed the results service is with the SMH and TM. Alas, their counterparts in Melbourne do not provide such a quality slice of racing reporting for the midweek Melbourne meetings. The Herald-Sun in Melbourne and The Age both print the results in a most unattractive typeface and provide only the barest minimum of details.

Another way to get a full record of each week's results, and to get them by Tuesday or Wednesday, is to subscribe to George Tafe's Turf Guide. It provides very detailed results, as well as Class and Weight Ratings and, with many races, 'in race' positions at the 800m and 400m marks. The drawback with this particular service is that for the 'small bet' punter it can seem costly at around $150 for 13 weeks.

If you can't afford this type of outlay, then you have to stick with the newspapers and the weeklies like Sportsman and the Globe. As well as combing out all the results, you must also check the newspapers and guides for worthwhile items to clip out. Keep a close check on interviews with trainers and jockeys in which they talk about their horses and future plans.

Once you have decided what you want to file, you get yourself some simple scrapbooks. The ones I use are 48-page Newspower scrapbooks, costing about $1.20 each. They are not too big and cumbersome, but allow you plenty of room to paste in all you need.

I keep each State's racing in separate files, and I also have one for 'general racing' in which I place any stories that might be of use from States other than N.S.W., Queensland and Victoria (for instance, news of WA. gallopers coming to the eastern States).

The great benefit of filing all this information, and having it ready at your fingertips, is that you can easily and swiftly check up on any horse's form. Let's say you were investigating the form of a race, and you see that a certain horse finished 6th at Sandown last start. You can't remember the race itself, but all you need do is to flip back to your turn-and-finish charts from the Globe to discover exactly where the horse was at 800m, the 400m and the finish.

You can satisfy yourself about how it performed: Did it get back and make up heaps of ground? Did it just plod along in the same position? All sorts of questions can be answered with the use of the turn-and-finish strips.

You can go further, too, by using your clippings to see if a horse was mentioned in stewards' reports, or whether it received a good comment in the results writeups. It's surprising how often you can make a profit out of following-up a racing writer's informative comment on a beaten horse.

You'll find that as you build up your files of information that you will become a much more informed punter, because you won't be relying solely on formguide material when making your important selection decisions. You will find yourself more and more referring back to your files, instead of accepting what the formguide says at face value.

Example: If you'd been considering Burrendah Boy's form for Randwick on December 1, you could have quickly referred back, via the Telegraph-Mirror's results service, to its previous start when 3rd at Warwick Farm on November 20. The Comment on Burrendah Boy's effort in that race said: "2nd settling, same turn, showed heap of speed and held on well over the final bit."

The Comment was most accurate, and pinpointed exactly Burrendah Boy's strengths-because the 4yo. Newcastle entire went on to win on December 1 with a powerhouse display of front-running, and to top it off then grabbed a second win on December 15 in similar fashion.

The moot point of all this is to get you to recognise the value of keeping your own files on what is happening-and don't forget that there is absolutely no reason why you should not run a separate exercise book filled with your own comments about what you saw at the races, or on Sky TV.

Take particular note of how unplaced horses went to the line, because you can often spot upcoming winners among those horses finishing 7th or 8th. Write down their names in your racebook, plus a few comments. and when you get home immediately enter everything into your exercise book (preferably one which has alphabetical sections).

Sometimes you'll find your own judgement is absolutely spot-on, and once you get a bit of confidence you'll find that you rely less and less on other people's opinions.

The cost of all this filing and record keeping? Not much. Let's say you need to buy two Sportsman and two Globes each week; that's $10. A Sunday Mail is $1 (possibly a bit more by subscription) and the Sydney Morning Herald and Telegraph Mirror cost 50 cents each.

You'll probably use one scrapbook every two months for each State, so that's an annual cost of around $20. A bottle of paste will set you back only a couple of dollars.


By Brian Blackwell