The first thing to be said about 'first uppers' is that you have to be careful. Extremely careful. Most horses resuming from a spell - say 60 days or more - will lose at their first run back. That's an iron-clad fact.

Trying to discover which ones might win is one of the great tasks of the punting life. You can quite easily fall on your 'sword' in attempting to pick your way through the first-uppers labyrinth.

Years ago, we didn't have the information available to us to really know which horses performed well fresh from a rest. Now we do. Formguides provide that information. For instance, Best Bets has a 'First-up' line which tells you how many times a horse has won first-up and how many times it has run a placing.

The Wizard provides details of the actual 'days since last start' for each win a horse has collected. This is most helpful because there are spells and there are spells.

A horse may have won fresh before after a spell of, say, 90 days. But he may now be returning after being out for 180 days. Can he win after that break - and how important is the fact that he has won before after a 90 day break?

It could be far more difficult a task to win after a six month spell than a three month break. This is just one of the little mysteries you face.

Some horses prove themselves two or three times as first-up winners - yet the pattern is broken when they are produced fresh for another campaign. Alternatively, some horses failed several times on resuming after a spell, then suddenly win first-up. It really IS a frustrating business.

Much, of course, depends on the class factor. A horse coming through the grades might be able to win first-up against, say, Class 1 and 2 company - but later when he has to race fresh against Class 6 or Welter fields he just cannot do it.

That's another moot point to bear in mind. Check up and find out the class of the races in which a horse was able to win fresh - and then look at the class of the current race!

When you are studying the form, the best approach to ensure you don't miss a first-up winner is to check the form for each runner and circle the resuming runners. Once you have done this, mark it with a different coloured ink if it has won before first-up.

How many times has it won firstup? Is it capable of repeating the performance? What weight did it carry when a first-up winner before and how does this compare with the weight it is now to carry? If possible, have a look at the horse's track gallops to see if there is a clue there that it might be all set for a first-up win.

Normally, you will be looking at sprint races between 900m and 1400m for these first-up runners. It's rare to see a horse win at, say, 1600m or more first-up (though trainer Lee Freedman was attempting such a win with Mahogany in the 2040m Cox Plate in October).

One key angle to look for is when a first-up runner is the true 'class' horse of the race. In many instances, horses like this can win even though they have never shown first-up form before. Their class carries them through.

A recent instance of this was joie Denise's first-up win at Randwick (1400m) in August. She was in a handicap for fillies and mares and had top weight of 57kg (on a 51kg Limit). Her form indicated she had failed twice before first-up, not even running placings.

But in this race, she was DOWN in class. Her most recent start, back on June 10, was a 3.3 lengths 5th in the Queensland Derby, and before that she had won the Queensland Oaks in race record time. Yet here she was racing against her own sex, with the second mare in the handicap being Castle Song, who had failed in a Sydney Welter last start!

Joie Denise was sent out at 10/1 and won careering away with a tremendous final burst. A classic example, then, of a quality galloper being able to resume and win mainly because she was a few classes above the calibre of the opposition.

The jockey may also be a clue to a horse's first-up prospects. Sometimes, trainers will put little-known apprentices aboard. The more inexperienced the rider the less likely the horse is to win.

But the appearance of a leading rider on a first-upper could be just the warning signal needed to take extra care when assessing the horse's prospects.

Go through the form of first-up horses. Ask yourself pertinent questions - and look for the positives and negatives in its background. The big question is: Can it win against this field?

In nine cases out of 10 you will answer no. But then comes the horse and the race when the answer is yes.

Click here to read Part 1.

By Alan Jacobs