In any race on the card, one horse is usually claimed to be the 'form horse'. Many times, views will differ as to which horse it is!

I've spent a lot of time mulling over this particular aspect of racing. I asked myself: What is a form horse? Which runner can be said above all the rest to have the best winning claims based on form?

Naturally, there is no simple answer. Any number of variables come into play, because each horse is different, each might race differently depending on certain circumstances and so on.

I did quite a bit of study, pulling bits and pieces from here and there and a number of times I thought I'd hit the nail on the head, only to find, after further research, that I hadn't quite got it right.

The loose ends came together finally and I am reasonably satisfied now that I have built up the picture of a form horse - the one you should be looking out for in every race you study. I am confident you'll strike your fair share of winners at good prices.

Firstly, what do we look for in a form horse? I won't say 'form' because that's stating the obvious, and what is 'form' anyway? It depends on your line of thinking. My own ideas on the factor is that a form horse must have finished WITHIN one length (inclusive) of the winner at its last start - OR it should be a winner.

This is our starting point. We are looking for winners and placegetters but only placegetters (or unplaced runners) which have got to within a length of the winner. That is, a horse might have run 4th or 5th last start yet gone down by only a half length or three quarters of a length.

Once you have clearly earmarked these qualifiers you have to then determine if they are now racing in the right Class. A horse may last start have won a Class I at Bendigo but is now racing in a Welter at Caulfield.

Check this Class aspect most carefully. Once you have eliminated those runners racing 'out of their class' you can turn your attention to whichever horses remain.

There may be one horse, or two, or several. We now bring in a 'days since last start' rule. With this we eliminate any runner who hasn't raced for more than 21 days (that is, 22 days or more). This should get rid of unfit horses, or horses who could be considered on the borderline of fitness.

You should now have select horses left - sometimes none at all (there may not be any qualifiers in the first place). If you have more than one final qualifier, you should attempt to back them all, but you will only be able to do this if prices permit.

Always seek at least 25 per cent profit on a multiple bet. Let's say you have two contenders left - one at 2/1 and the other at 5/2. You can back each at 1 unit a win and your return will be either 3 units or 3.5 units. In the first instance the profit is 50 per cent, in the second instance the profit is 75 per cent.

This is acceptable. You might have three horses at 2/1, 5/2 and 4/1. You bet 3 units for a potential return of 3, 3.5 or 5. Only one of the winning results will give you a decent return. In races like this I would refrain from betting - you must be sure of winning at least 25 per cent of your stake from whichever horse wins.

That is, $2 outlaid, expected return any winner should be $2.50. If you bet $3 you need at least $3.75 back. If you bet $4 you need at least $5 back; a bet of $6 would need at least $7.50 returned, and so on.

If you do not like multiple betting, and want to figure out just one selection a race, I suggest you bet the best-fancied of the qualifiers you have remaining. This is the conservative way to go.

This method will enable you to bet horses which have the following credentials:

(a) Good run last start.
(b) Racing in the right Class.
(c) Fitness.

Here are the rules of the Form Horse selection method:

  1. Operate on any race, except races over hurdles and steeples. We are not interested in jumps races (too many likely problems) but there's no reason why we can't operate on all other races.
  2. Do not operate on any race where two or more runners are first starters and have no exposed form. These are risky races because no matter how good the form looks, there could be top racehorses ready to win from the first-starters.
  3. Tick off all last-start winners. These are formful horses.
  4. Tick off any horse which ran within ONE length (inclusive) of the winner last start. This can include unplaced runners. This rule covers the horses which went close to winning last start.
  5. Check thoroughly to ensure a horse is racing in the right Class of race. If it is racing ABOVE its Class then eliminate it. It is important we weed out those runners which will be outclassed, no matter how smart their recent form.
  6. Eliminate any horse whose last start was 22 days or more from the date of today's race. A horse needs to be fit and the further off its last start the more queries revolve around it.
  7. If there is more than one qualifier then adopt one of two strategies:
    (a) Back the horse at the shortest price or
    (b) Back all final contenders if prices permit at least a 25 per cent return on stake whichever horse wins. It is up to you how you handle this aspect of the system. Follow whichever suits you best.

By Peter Travers