In the first three articles in this series I laid out my general thoughts on form analysis for midweek racing.

I suppose the main thing I want to stress is this: ask questions, not only of the formlines but of yourself.

Your thinking needs to be in sharp order if you’re to take advantage of the many nuances of the form that could point you to a winner. A mind dulled by tiredness, stress or just laziness will MISS vital clues, and lead to WRONG DECISIONS.

Get simple priorities in order. Which tracks offer stronger form than others? Which stables are safer to entrust your money to and the same applies to jockeys. Are you going to bet on certain tracks, and not at others?

Always keep some sort of a record of your performance. In many ways a punter is very much like a racehorse. You will perform better at some tracks than at others, you will do better at races of a certain class, and at races of a certain distance.

I’ve found that I rarely do much good at tracks like Mildura, Horsham and Wangaratta. I avoid them as much as I can. You may find you do well at these tracks and badly at others.

You will only be able to discover what suits you best by keeping a record of everything you do, and that means where, class of race, distance, number of runners, track condition, level of favouritism and so on.? All these factors mean something in the totality of what you’re doing.

You may like backing favourites, but what you need to discover is how well or badly you do, financially, out of backing them? You may get the surprise of your life. Those winning favourites may not be helping your bank balance at all. It may be the 5/1 and 6/1 shots that give you a profit.

My stepladder consists of a series of questions which will help you determine exactly where you are going in your daily betting, and how to avoid the pitfalls. At least, that’s the aim, because for the approach to be successful you will need to answer all the issues with an honest response. No dodging or evasion.

Decide which area you are going to concentrate on; that is, will you bet on Victorian tracks, or NSW tracks, or Queensland tracks, or Sth Australian tracks? My advice is to stick with ONE area of operation, so you can SPECIALISE in it, and not have to cast your net too wide, and thus your overall workload.

Decide on which races you will examine from the day’s card. If you know which types of races you do best on, then you can easily pick out the two or three on which you will concentrate your attention. I suggest you always ignore races with first-starters because these can prove “trap” events. If you know nothing about a horse, how can you properly assess its chances?

Check out your PRIORITY stables. In the first article in this series I explained how I have a list of trainers who have consistently landed the money for me on the Victorian tracks. These are what I call the PRIORITY stables. Tick off all their runners in the races on which you have chosen to bet (remember, you can’t bet on every race!). When you begin to assess the formlines of every runner in the race, these stables’ runners are your benchmark. Assess them first.

Assuming you are doing the right thing in watching video replays of races, you will have a list of horses which you have compiled from these replays, consisting of horses who were unlucky, or who put in good runs. Check out these “video stars” after you have checked out the PRIORITY stable runners. Check out their form against the other runners and decide if the video replay run stands up to close assessment. It may be the horse looks a real chance, but it also may have been put into a race in which it’s outclassed (this often happens as trainers lose the plot).

You begin to study the form of all the runners. And this is where you need to ask serious questions:

(a)    Why can this horse win the race?
(b)    Why can’t this horse win the race?

When we talk about studying form, these two questions sum up what it is all about. You are provided with the clues in the formguide, you know what the horse has done and now you must answer the most crucial questions . . . Why can it, why can’t it?

The form will throw many curly posers for you. Do you forgive a horse a bad run? Can a horse “bounce” from a win and win again? Why will it go from a defeat to a win? How unlucky was it last start? Is it suited today? Is it fit? Can it run well fresh? How good or poor is the rider? Does the stable win many races?

You may narrow a race down to, say, three chances.?To determine a final selection you may have to resort to your PRIORITY stables or the evidence from your video replay watching. In a close call between a horse trained by Mick Price and another horse from a minor trainer, always go for the strength.

When you’re weighing up the form, don’t be put off too much by formlines that say 6th, 7th, 8th and so on. They look bad but often they are not. This is where it’s essential to watch races.

Subscribe to the TVN Internet service and you can look at the replay of any Victorian race as well as Sydney city races. There is no excuse for not knowing EXACTLY how a horse ran in a race.

A horse who is unplaced may be just running into good form. This is what you need to determine from its latest run and from what it has done in the past. Always look for patterns in a horse’s formlines. What he’s done before is likely to replay itself.

Then there’s the bad luck factors, or a bad ride, or not suited to the conditions and so on. I think you don’t need me to remind you too many times of all the avenues that need to be explored.

How to bet your selections? This is a very personal thing. No two punters bet alike. So if I recommend an approach it may suit some and will be rejected by many others.

I say this: FIND OUT FOR YOURSELF. You know what sort of punter you are, you know your strengths and weaknesses, you know (or you should know) what has worked best for you over the years, so from all this make a decision about HOW you will bet.

My own approach is a flexible one and I’m prone to a strategy of “maximum boldness” which many punters shirk. I like a horse more when everyone else ignores it! It’s when I know the crowd has picked the same horse as me that I get that sinking feeling.

I hope these elements of form analysis are of some use to you in your own endeavours. If nothing else, they may make you stop and think about what you do as a punter and what you may need to do to improve your selection strike rate and your overall financial situation.

Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.

By Brian Blackwell