Inject some flair into your form analysis? Now what, you may be asking, does that mean? It's the same thought I had when a friend of mine urged me to do just that the other week.

I'd been telling him that my success rate had been dropping for a year or more, and that I was finding form study something of a boring chore.

"You need to inject some flair into things," commented my pal. "Look at everything from a different perspective. You might find that things turn around."

He went on to tell me that he, like me, had fallen into a trough of despair over his lack of success with his betting. I know that he's a pretty serious punter, so I could well imagine that his losses were in the 'heavy' area.

He explained that he decided on an entirely new approach to finding his selections. But, firstly, he took a holiday. Packed the bags and went off for a couple of weeks 'up north', did some surfcasting, danced up a storm at the nightclubs, swam in the hotel pool and ate the finest food he could afford.

He didn't even look at a formguide. He returned to Sydney refreshed and ready to do some real personal analysis. He went back over his betting sheets for the previous 12 months and began to realise he'd fallen into the trap of maintaining a stereotyped approach.

He'd done the same thing for year after year and the whole thing had gone stale along with him!

I was aware, as my pal explained things, that I was in the same leaky boat. I had a lot of preconceived notions that I needed to dump, I was lumbered with psychological pet hatreds for aspects of form and for certain trainers and jockeys. These I had to unload.

Worst of all, I always began my form analysis with the favourites in each race and by the time I'd finished with them I had little energy, physical or mental, to cope with the remainder of the runners. As a result, I was sloppy in assessing their prospects.

My review of all that had gone before indicated that I was placing far too much stress on old form, while ignoring what I now call 'pre-improvement' performances.

I decided to re-adjust my approach. I wasn't going to throw everything out the window (that would be silly and an overreaction) but I was going to make form study a lot more fun, and a great deal more relaxing.

I divided my new approach into four sections. I would use them on an ad hoc basis. One day I would do all the form study using Approach A, another day I'd use Approach B, another day Approach C. and so on.

In other words, I was varying everything in order to keep myself as fresh as a daisy!

I'm delighted to report that the 'makeover' was just what I needed. It took next to no time for me to start picking the right horses again. The fresh approaches paid off. I was 'seeing' each race from a totally different viewpoint to that which had dictated my form analysis in the past.

I have set out in this article the basis of my four approaches. I've given each a name so you can easily tell them apart. You can use them, as I do, on an alternate basis, or use them all, or pick the one that best suits your individual style.

This means exactly what the name suggests. We are going to use top trainers as our lead-in. Just get the formguide, forget about any of the runners except those that are coming out of the stables of a TOP TRAINER.

By top trainer I mean the likes of Jack Denham, Lee Freedman, David Hall, Peter Hayes, those types of 'glamour stable' mentors.

Tick off the required horses, then go looking for the 'likely improvers'. Now, by this I don't necessarily mean those that ran 2nd or 3rd last start. Often, it comes down to horses that were unplaced last start but who were not beaten too far.

You need to put these top trainer runners through the wringer. Check the formlines thoroughly and don't be too dazzled by placed performances. Instead, accept the challenge and try to spot the performances that suggest an improvement is coming.

Example: The Truth Newspaper Plate at Flemington on March 18. There were 6 runners that fell into the top trainers' category: Blackfriars (Hayes), Honourable Mention (Hall), Rose O'War (Freedman), Zola (Hayes), Karasi (Hall) and Phoenix Strike (Hall).

The improver I settled on was Rose O'War, who had run 4.6 lengths 10th at Caulfield at her previous start when 14 / 1. BUT, she'd run on from last on the home turn and it was only her second run back from a spell.

She had good form at the track and the distance, she was down in weight, she was drawn well and she was suited by the ground conditions. She won.

With this approach, you knock out any runner who has not put in FIVE successive placed performances at its most recent starts. Believe me, this p puts a lot of the runners to one side (don't forget. that we're not ignoring them, just putting them back down the ladder for consideration).

Once you have these runners ticked off, check out their form. I look for a good stable connection, a good jockey, not too much weight, a good barrier slot, recency of last start, and at least a couple of runs since a spell.

This approach puts you into a most positive frame of mind. It's one that I like to use for 2yo races run from January onwards; the better the class, the better I like it.

Of course, if you don't find any selections using this approach, simply move on to another of the approaches and see what you can find. It's often a good idea to check out three of the approaches, come up with a selection or two in each, and use them in exotic multiples.

Okay, I know, it had to happen! No matter how you deal with form, you can't escape the fact that last-start winners deserve a lot of respect. They are a pretty solid starting point for form analysis.

Just tick off all the last-start winners, and then get stuck into your form analysis. I look for recency of the win, not too much weight increase, winning ability at the track and distance, a good barrier draw, good jockey, good trainer, and suitable class of race.

I think this is perhaps the best of the approaches. It simply means that the form study is begun with the runners who had their latest starts within the shortest number of days.

I break them up into various sections: I to 5 days, 6 to 9 days, 10 to 14 days, 15 to 21 days, 22 to 28 days, 29 and further.

Statistics show that the more recent a horse's last start, the more likely it is to win or run a placing. The further away a horse's last start, the more likely it is to find it hard to win or run a place.

These may seem simple ways to boost interest in your form study but I can assure you they can have a positive effect. Just the changing around of your approach gives you a freshen-up, a new lease on life when it comes to poring over formlines.

With me, it was all I needed to give a kick-start to my sagging betting fortunes. I found I was looking at horses I hid formerly skimmed over, I was making some bright and informed decisions where before I might have agonised over what to choose.

My friend, who steered me on the new path, says he used the pre-race betting market to guide him along. His most favoured approach is to check out the horses with the most recent runs and then examine those which are on the first four lines of betting.

By looking for good jockey trainer links, handy recent efforts, good barriers, ideal distances and tracks, he is able to quickly sum tip a race.

I hope you can use these new ideas as well as myself and my friend. If you're a bit lacklustre over form study, or simply brassed off with your current approach, then they can add that dash of flair and excitement you may need to boost things along.

A touch of flair and daring, that's what it's all about!

By Rick Hunter