Let’s commence with some of the aspects of form that need regular revisiting. Form is a pretty general term, but we are all on common ground because every punter knows what to expect when we start talking about “form”.

Second last start winners that subsequently run zero, and beaten favourites, are the two formlines we will start with. Second last start winners that subsequently ran zero will have form reading 10, meaning a win and “not in the first nine”.

Don’t confuse a cross (X) with a zero. The cross means a spell, usually of 90 days (most of us tend to stick to 90 days as it is the close equivalent of three months).

Any horse that won its second last start, then ran nowhere, must come into consideration when we are doing the form. Sometimes, as in the case of a horse which was successful in the country and has now risen several classes to be competing in the city, the formline 10 must be taken very seriously if the horse returns to its home area. This can be quite a short journey.

For example a winner at Canberra (that’s maybe not the country, but you get the picture) or at Warrnambool, might have a crack at a race in town. Canberra winners often try their luck, as it is now quite a comfortable drive up to Rosehill, for example.

Similarly, a Warrnambool Class one winner, having just won its first start, might eye off a minor race over at, say, Cheltenham. While $7,000 or $8,000 in Adelaide might not appear to be particularly enticing for city horses with pretensions to class, your Warrnambool Class one winner’s connections may be attracted to just such a midweek metropolitan event to test it out.

If this horse fails, as could be the case, it could travel back to the beautiful Warrnambool area and line up in a pretty easy Class one or Class two, or even a Class three. While it could not run in the first nine at Cheltenham, you might find that it still has enough “pretensions to class” to knock out the local hopefuls.

So the formline needs more than a passing glance, when the zero was acquired by travelling.

Hopeful journeys and changes in class, together with foul barrier draws, are amongst my main reasons for any horse acquiring a zero in its formline. Naturally there are others, but these are easy ones to reconsider when you are scrutinising your approach to form.

I have an immediate red light switch somewhere in my form brain. It flashes whenever I see a 10 at the end of the formline. I do a very quick check (regardless of what I think I already know!), to be sure I understand precisely why the zero followed the win. Often I am able to explain the zero to my own satisfaction within seconds; and often (something a lot punters overlook) I am able to explain away the win!

“Ah,” I might well think to myself, “It had three unsuccessful runs against its own age in the city and then went bush to get a kill.”

A “kill” is punter-talk for a win; maybe not a very pleasant one but there you are. I am now able to very quickly dismiss the win when the horse comes back to the class it couldn’t beat in the city. Of course it might win, but my basic reading of the formline, without any other factors, would be that it dropped in class and has now gone back up.

There is a lot more that could be said about the 10 formline, but that will set you thinking. Now for today’s other form item, the beaten favourite.

Formguides today mostly include a “b” alongside a horse’s name, if it was rolled as the popular elect at its last start. You can have a whole range of reasons for the horse being beaten as favourite, but the significant thing for your “form revisited” scrutiny is that, as The Optimist always says, “it happens”.

And very few things “happen” as much as losing favourites (anything between 60 and 80 per cent of all races will see the favourite fail to salute the judge). What you are looking for is the reason.

The biggest one of all for a form follower is what we call “the wrong day”. Next month we will take this up in more detail and we will continue the series, revisiting more “aspects of form”.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Jon Hudson