“If more than one person is responsible for a miscalculation, no one will be at fault. '

That is Murphy's Law at its best. Unfortunately, as far as the punter is concerned, he has no-one to blame but himself.

It doesn't matter which paper you choose for the form guide, I'll lay odds that most of you skim across the past performances looking only for factors which suit your own style of evaluation or system.

Hopefully, when the race is over, all of you return to the form guide and discover sound reasons for backing the eventual winner - reasons that your pre-race analysis failed to find.

The details you should have noticed would include prizemoney earned, the horse's consistency, its weight, a winner at its last start, any excuses for its failure in its previous race, is it a front runner. has it got a shrewd trainer or is it the only male in the race.

All these and other 'straws in the wind' were right in front of you all the time but because, like most other average punters, you are in an habitual hurry, you failed to take note of this information BEFORE THE RACE.

You've closed the door after the horse has bolted. And what's more, you keep on doing it!

You're at the track and a heavily-backed favourite and two reasonable second and third choices are shown on the tote board. After a quick look you reckon that the general betting public can't all be wrong and you join the slalom - downhill all the way into the bookies' bags.

Having had your wrists slapped, you check the next race a little closer but it's all too hard. Again. with your eyes wide open, you follow the leaders on the tote board. And again you check the eventual winner's form and decide that he was the horse you should have followed, despite what the public thought.

How many times have you seen sure fire things still running the next day in an effort to catch the field? You probably reckon the race was rigged - and you're wrong.

The horse's last race may be the only good one it's going to run during its current form cycle. Horses do lose form and without reconditioning their performances are going to deteriorate with every race.

You don't run your car without a tuneup and a grease and oil change, do you?

How many of you get tired, or couldn't stand the bother, of weighing up one factor after another in an effort to come up with the right answer?

Do you chuck it all in after a few races and wait for a direction from the tote board, a tout or even from the bloke sitting next to you who happened to back the last winner?

In other words, do you lack self-confidence and take the lazy way out by using other people's advice, thereby escaping blame when the horse loses?

If you fall into this category, read on. We'll look at the past performances to see if we can find factors which will put us onto a horse likely to repeat a good effort. It's fair to reason that if he did it once he might do it again, and we want the clues to support the belief that 'today's the day'.

The following points are a must for successful form analysis:

A. Do not skim over the data concerning the conditions of a race. This tells you the distance of the race, the class, sex and age of the runners, the weights they will carry and the eligibility requirements.

This is where self-analysis comes in. Do you know how to evaluate the designated distance? If it is a maiden race are you likely to find the winner? Do fillies and mares continually fool you? In short, you've got to know your strengths and weaknesses and pass the races in which you don't possess sufficient knowledge to consistently find the winner. However, if you are a regular Practical Punting reader, you will gain more knowledge than you had before.

B. Always check the date of the horse's last race. Was it too far back to be worthy of consideration today? Was the horse rested prior to his last start? Could that last race have been a conditioner?

C. Check the course on which the horse's last race was run. Is it on the same course today, or a different one? Did the horse have to travel a fair distance to reach today's track, and is he a good traveller?

D. What was the condition of the track for his last race? If it's the same as today's, good. If the track condition is different, is it likely to help him or go against him?

E. Is the distance of today's race the same as that of his last start? If the last race's distance is shorter than today's, did the horse gain ground in the home straight? If it was longer was he right up with the leaders in the early stages? A change in distance can be a good indication of a win today, especially if past performances indicate that the horse has a liking for today's distance.

F. Probably the most baffling hurdle you face in form analysis is the class line. Is the horse still equal to his latest class? Is he going to improve? This is where we all come unstuck. No-one, not even the trainer, really knows for sure.

All we can do is estimate his racing class TODAY. This can give us an indication of the trainer's intentions; but be careful: trainers are some of the shrewdest people alive and they are always trying to outsmart the opposition, which includes you.

G. The barrier position is important, although some horses do overcome bad draws, depending on the distance.

Is he in a better barrier position today for his style of running? Is he closer to the rail today and running over a distance where this is to his advantage, particularly considering the starting point of the race? A front runner who jumps quickly has a good chance of leading all the way when starting from a good barrier, depending on the distance.

H. Consider the running style of the horse's last race. Was it just a preparation? Did he show anything - early, middle or late speed? Even though his last run looks poor on the surface, a thorough study may give you an idea as to what purpose that last race served.

I. Has the jockey ridden the horse before? If he did, how did he go with the horse? Is one of the leading jockeys in the saddle today?

J. Is the trainer a leader in his field? Do his horses win regardless of the odds? Does he tend to get up winners only when obvious betting 'action' shows on the tote board? Remember that the trainer is the man calling the shots and you should become something of an expert on his style.

K. Weight - compare what the horse has successfully carried in the past with what he's got to lug around today.

Many punters don't even consider weight, and that's why their wallets lighten.

Finally, I must point out that form analysis is an art practised by individuals. Each of us develops techniques which embrace knowledge, skill, energy, patience, and even prejudice.

Individuality dictates that there cannot be a universally acceptable interpretation of the 11 factors mentioned above. One is not offered.

However, you should learn to digest and use every scrap of information offered in form guides about past performances. The experts offer the information, you should gladly accept it.

Remember another Murphy's Law quote: 'It is morally wrong to allow suckers to keep their money'


By Statsman