When we look at form, what are we really looking for? Confirmation of something we already have in mind? Are we looking for similar confirmation for what the tipsters have chosen, or what the bookies have decided in their early markets?

Few punters can approach form study with an open mind. We all hold prejudices, whether it's against a certain horse, or a trainer or a jockey. We have a 'thing' about wide barriers, or maybe have always thought that any horse over 10/1 is not worth looking at.

It's essential, I believe, for any punter doing form analysis to treat each runner on level terms. That is, put out of your mind - as far as humanly possible - all the hype you may have read about certain horses and your own little 'theories' and likes and dislikes.

Try to see each horse as an individual. What are its claims to the race? Has it any recent form which might suggest that it can lay a viable claim to the current race? Is there a race which you can look at and relate to the current race?

Even if a horse is a despised 100/1 outsider, it might be worth the 5 minutes you spend looking at it. Sometimes you might not unearth a winner, but you could stumble on a roughie capable of getting into a 2nd or 3rd slot. Think about the quinella value of horses like these.

Let's look at a couple of recent races. Firstly, to September 23, and the George Main Stakes at Randwick, run over 1600m. This was a Group One race and attracted a strong field.

While many runners obviously had chances, the actual winner, Turridu, was more or less neglected in the pre-race summaries and in the betting. He was sent out at 12/1. Yet any punter who took the time to delve into Turridu's form would have been forewarned that he was in the race with a top chance, certainly a better one than his odds indicated.

He was having his second run from a spell, so we could assume he was fit enough for the 'mile', especially as he had run well at his previous first-up run, finishing only 3.9 lengths behind Ivory's Irish in a Group Two 1300m dash.

But if you had checked back on his form last time in, the clues were all there. The last time he raced over 1600m was at Eagle Farm on May 6, when he WON the prestigious Queensland Guineas, beating Juggler, Brave Warrior, Ivory's Irish and Danasinga!

His previous 1600m start was on March 9 at Gosford when he beat Persian Flyer and Lament in the Gosford Guineas. We can see, then, that Turridu can rightly claim to be a top-class miler. As well as his 1600m form, he won the Queensland Derby over 2400m in June, beating Brave Warrior again, and also ran a bold 3rd to Danewin and Danasinga in the 2020m Doomben Cup.

So why was Turridu sent out at 12/1? It makes you wonder, doesn't it.

We might apply the same sense of wonderment to the 50/1 win by Ivory's Irish at Rosehill on September 9. This high-class galloper was resuming from a three-month break in a 1300m race, the Theo Marks Quality, in which he had 57kg.

The clue to Ivory's Irish's first-up ability can be traced back to December 3 last year when he resumed after a five-month break in a - you guessed it - 1300m race at Rosehill! He didn't win, but he did finish 4th, only ONE length behind the winner, Money Thinks.

This was not the same class of race as the Theo Marks but it did contain the likes of Stonebrook Meadow and Nick's Joy Ivory's Irish went on from that run to win two successive 1400m races at Randwick.

It was clear, then, that he was a horse capable of firing when firstup from a spell. This he did, powering home to beat Flight To Fantasy and Danewin at those lucrative 50/1 odds.

These are two examples of how you can latch on to possible winners simply by taking the time to search for clues. In essence, you are like a detective trying to unravel a mysterious crime. You need to search for the clues which will lead you not to a killer but to a winner!

It can be time-consuming but in the long run well worth all your time and trouble. If you really feel it will be all too much for you, why not get out of your mind the prospect of doing every race.

Stick to the daily double. That's just 2 races with, say, 14 runners in each - 28 horses to be considered at, say, 5 minutes each. That's a couple of hours with your formguides.

If you could isolate just one winner like Turridu every couple of weeks, it would all be more than worthwhile, wouldn't it?

Much depends on the individual where form study is concerned. I know some people love it. Others cannot be bothered. Some try, but just can't concentrate after a hard day's work. My point is that it really is worth the effort. Do it if you can.

NEXT MONTH: We look at how to spot good first-up performers, and how to ensure their past efforts match up to today's race.

Click here to read Part 2.

by Alan Jacobs