A new series on how to use your formguide

One of the great obstacles facing each and every punter is how to find some new way of approaching an old subject. How can you get a fresh angle that might turn around your fortunes?

I believe the clues are all there in our formguides. So much information is relayed to us via the guides, like Sportsman, Winning Post, Best Bets, etc., that if we use our brains and take advantage of it, then success will come our way.

In this series of articles, I'm going to take you on a 'tour' of the various formguides to see what things we may be able to use to our advantage.

The first point I want to make is that we should avoid slavish devotion to the tipsters, and especially to any one individual tipster. The performances of the public tipsters is too erratic to be followed with any great confidence.

One week, Mr Tipster will pick five winners on top, the next he's likely to pick none. So we have to be well aware of this aspect of the tipping business. No latching on to tipsters' picks and certainly no systems devised around their selections!

By combing through the formguides, I'm really looking for bits of useful information, statistics that might show us the way to winners, ratings that just might be a golden pathway to cash.

Let's take a look at the Sportsman. Now here's a guide that packs a wallop with its form charts and the stack of extra information it publishes in its twice-weekly editions.

It's the liftout Chartform section which contains the sort of details that, as punters, we are looking for with a view to working out some new approach. Stretched across the page is a goldmine of information.

It goes like this: Age, barrier, weight, Zipform Rating figure, class (up, down or same from last start), career starts, wins, placings, win and place percentages, average prizemoney, days since last race, performances at the course and distance, performances on fast, good, dead, slow and heavy going.

Added to this we can get pointers to the following:

  • Horses in the race that like to lead, race on the pace or come from behind;
  • Horses which have been freshened-up with a short break;
  • Horses that are resuming from a let-up;
  • Horses that have trialled well.
  • Horses that have been mentioned in stewards' reports.

Surely, from all this information, the canny punter can 'pick the eyes out of it' and find certain factors that can lend themselves to a winning approach?

Knowing which horses are going to race 'on the pace' is always worth knowing. It allows you to figure out how a race is likely to be run so far as which horses lead and which drop out and then run home late.

This particular Sportsman feature saves you the trouble of trying to figure all these things out yourself.

For bettors who like to shoot for the placings, the 'on the pace' horses could be the first ones on which you check when you start to analyse a race. It's a fact that horses that possess the pace to be up handy on the turn, are
good place bets. They may not hang on to win but ~hey can often grab a 2nd or 3rd placing.

A combination of the various factors is worth considering. Let's say you like to stick to the first five horses in the betting, on the basis that they will win three-quarters of all races that are run.

Now, look at the Chartform details as they apply to these runners and start allotting some points for each positive factor.

Okay, what about the application of the following factors:

  1. Average prizemoney.
  2. Course ability.
  3. Distance ability.
  4. Days since last run.

What you can do is give, say, 5 points to the horse with the highest average prizemoney total, 4 points for each win at the course, 4 points for each win at the distance, and 5 points for any contender whose last start was 10 days or less ago.

Once you apply these points, the horse with the highest total will loom as your best chance in the race.

An important part of the Sportsman is the Camera Charts. These are the turn-and-finish photo strips of the city meetings in Sydney and Melbourne.

Yes, I know that more and more punters now have access to video replays, thanks to Sky's coverage. These are great, of course, but how infuriating it is when you can't identify some of the unplaced runners!

The Camera Charts give you a second chance to check on who was who in the finish. As well as the photos, with all horses 'tagged' with their names, the Sportsman also provides the full race results, with all margins, plus the full stewards' reports.

I can't stress enough how important it is that you check out the reports from the stewards. I shake my head when punters tell me they rarely bother!

I've picked up so many winners from bits and pieces contained in stewards' reports that I would never ever miss sifting through them. Access to stewards' reports, years ago, was often difficult. If the press didn't print them, that was it.

Now, with the Sportsman and other guides featuring them, the task is that much easier. Even country and provincial reports can be picked up on the official sites on the Internet (see the Racing Services Bureau for Victorian meetings).

I make a point of going over the turn-and-finish photos. I find them an invaluable aid. Combined with the videos, they're a must in any keen punter's armoury.

The Sportsman's photos are taken from a high vantage point so it's easy to see exactly where most of the runners are placed at the 400m mark and at the finish.

The Sportsman also features the results of barrier trials in NSW, Victoria and Queensland. Once again, it's always worth checking them out. You can discover which well-known horses are on the way back after a spell, and how they performed in trials. You can also find newcomers who show promise.

Trackwork reports are another feature that should interest the punter who wants that extra bit of information. Unfortunately, not enough attention is paid to trackwork in Australia. The clubs are not interested in underwriting the costs of the clocking, so it's left to a few relatively unpaid clockers to do all the work.

Although the Sportsman provides just the barest details of each trackwork hitout, there's enough there to help you collar a winner or two every week. Look for those horses who have gone speedily over 800m or 1000m. They can often pop up at decent odds.

Many trackworkers are highlighted by the Sportsman's clockers. I suggest you note these down and watch out for them when they race. Now and then, everyone else will ignore them in a race and you'll be able to hit a big winner.

Finally, don't forget the Sportsman’s Zipform ratings. Its top three rated runners can usually be looked upon as having bright prospects and at the very least they are worthy of closer examination.

Next month, I'll take a look at the Winning Post formguide to see what it has to offer in the way of helpful hints and statistics.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Jon Hudson