In this, the second of a three-part series, P.P.M's computer expert Neale Yardley delves further into which form factors are the most important.

As discussed last month, fitness is one of the most important factors in determining whether a horse is likely to win a race or not. Since no one form factor signals whether a horse is fit or not I chose to look at a number of form statistics relevant to fitness. The first, discussed last month, was recency of last start.

The second form statistic that can be of great help in highlighting fit horses is the strike rate or win percentage achieved by a horse--particularly over a recent period.

Many formguides these days give a horse's win strike rate expressed as a percentage. These percentages are a useful indicator of a horse's consistency. Unfortunately they are not always a good indicator of fitness because a horse's overall consistency may not be the same as its recent consistency.

The more relevant indicator of fitness is a horse's consistency over recent starts. Such a consistency, say over the last eight starts rather than career to date, can be easily calculated by looking at the form for a horse's recent starts.

Most good formguides like the Sportsman, Truth or Sporting Globe give you details for each horse's last eight starts. From this information you can easily determine how many wins any horse has achieved over this recent period. You can then argue that a horse with a number of wins to its credit over its last eight starts is likely to be much fitter than a horse that hasn't won during its last eight starts.

Remembering what I just said about the importance of recent wins, you should realise that even a horse with the highest overall win percentage (that is career to date) is unlikely to be fit if it hasn't won during its last eight starts. Conversely, a horse with a low overall win percentage can still be fit and have a winning chance if it has won a number of races during its last eight starts.

Even if you don't use one of the formguides referred to above, you can still utilise this approach as it can be argued that the number of wins over a horse's last three or four starts are much more important than the number of wins over the horse's last eight starts. For example a horse with two wins from its last four starts is likely to be much fitter than one with only two wins that were five or six runs back.

Another thing that is important when it comes to reading recent form is the number of places a horse has achieved. Second and third placings over recent starts can be just as important an indicator of fitness as wins over recent starts.

Following is a system of points based on win and place consistency over recent starts. When added to the bonus and penalty points considered last month for recency of last start, the results should give you a good indication of the relative fitness of horses in a race. (Note that the fittest horse will have the highest points score and the least fit the lowest score.)

No wins out of last four starts or one place out of last four starts attracts a point score of minus two.

One win out of last four starts or two places out of last four starts attracts a point score of zero.

Two wins out of last four starts or three places out of last four starts attracts a point score of one.

Three wins out of last four starts or four places out of last four starts attracts a point score of two.

Four wins out of last four starts attracts a point score of three.

Before leaving the discussion of win and place consistencies, you may be interested to know that it is always possible for a horse to have had too many wins. Three or four wins in a row can often mean a horse is coming to the end of its winning streak. Ideally you need to know when a horse is at the beginning of its winning streak and when it is coming to the end. Being able to do this will greatly increase your profits as prices usually become shorter after a horse has had a number of wins.

Since it is impossible to predict with 100 percent certainty when a horse will win, I suggest you look for horses that have just started winning (say one or two wins at the most) and have been placed at three or four of their last four starts and last raced within seven to 14 days. Even if these horses don't always win at their next start you can at least be confident in the, fact that they are likely to be fit and more able to win than at any other time in their preparation.

Next month I will introduce you to the concept of analysing a horse's performance as it moves from start to start through its preparation. We will see that such an analysis can indeed help us try to predict when a horse will start winning.

Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 3.

By Neale Yardley