Not a raceday goes by without one or more horses turning in what we call 'form reversals' and many times these abrupt changes in form are shockers. There seems to be absolutely no reason for the improvement or the decline in form from one run to the next.

Quite often you can delve into a racehorse's form and discover the reason for the form reversal. A horse may have lost badly last start and then comes out and wins at big odds-but when you examine its losing run you find there were excuses valid enough to forgive the reversal.

In this article, I intend to have a look at a recent form reversal and then suggest some ideas you can incorporate into your study of form which may help you to spot when a sudden form change is likely. You won't catch all of them, but you might be able to snare one or two and benefit greatly from snapping up the overlays.

Take a look at the following form for a recent Sydney winner (I'll reveal the horse's name a little later on).

LAST, March 31, 1990, 24.5 lengths, Rosehill Magic Night Stakes 2yo. 1200m 55.5 (B. Hibberd 9) 15 starters. Set weights. 1:14.2s, heavy. 25/1, 66/1. Draw Card 55.5 1, Lusso 55.5 2, Wrap Around 55.5 3. 12th to turn, checked near 800m.

Now on first analysis this galloper seems to be right out of form. It has been beaten by a significant margin (24.5 lengths) on a heavy track and failed to beat home any other runner. So how come this galloper WON at Randwick next start on a heavy track in good 2yo. company, in the process defeating Lusso, which had finished 15.25 lengths in front of it when they met on March 31?

The galloper in question is the New Zealander Our Diamond Bright, who won against 2yo. fillies at Randwick on April 18. So, in the space of less than three weeks, Our Diamond Bright was able to show apparently enormous improvement from one race to the next. Why?

Her connections, I guess, could throw some light on the matter. Maybe the filly hadn't been 'right' for the March 31 race? Maybe she picked up a lot in those 18 days before the Randwick run? These are things the average punter can't know, unless the trainer happens to make any problems and improvements 'public' in the press before the race.

Astute punters, though, might have anticipated some improvement from Our Diamond Bright. After all, she was checked in the Rosehill run and when you take into account the very heavy conditions, then perhaps that interference was enough to wreck her chance in the race altogether?

And then you could have looked at her previous starts in Australia, and they might have tipped you off that she was a lot better than her Rosehill flop suggested. She was a winner at Ellerslie in Auckland on February 18, scoring by five lengths, and then was brought across to Australia by her trainer Jim Campin. She ran 2nd at Flemington to the good Colin Hayes' filly Roadsong on March 10, and was produced a week later and ran 3rd to Lusso and Regal Walk at Moonee Valley (beaten 1.75 lengths).

In this race she was backed from 5/2 into 9/4 and enjoyed the run of the race to the home turn before being beaten off by the winner and the runner-up. Our Diamond Bright was then taken to Sydney and, first-up at Rosehill, she turned in the shocker.

So could she have been considered a prospect for the Randwick race? The answer is YES, for a number of reasons. The quality of the Randwick race was way down on the Rosehill race. Only Lusso and maybe Poetic Vale had the form to be considered real dangers on what was known about the runners. Some were first starters.

If you ignored Our Diamond Bright's Rosehill performance, and judged her on New Zealand form and the Melbourne runs, you could have easily rated her an each-way chance at least. She was drawn well in barrier 5 and was receiving 2.5kgs from Lusso after that filly's apprentices claim was allowed for.

Our Diamond Bright went on to win the Randwick race by a half-length from Lusso. She started at 14/1, after better prices were bet in the early and middle stages of betting. She was sent out equal 5th favourite.

The stewards asked for no explanation of her improved performance. Maybe they were satisfied that she had been badly interfered with during the Rosehill run? Or maybe they were prepared to accept such an improvement given the state of the Sydney tracks at the time?

That there Was a dramatic improvement is beyond question. If we look at George Tafe's Class Ratings for the March 31 and April 18 runs, we see that at Rosehill she had a Class Rating of only 3.8, while her Randwick win saw her register a Class Rating of 39.0, an improvement of some 35kgs (or around 23 lengths).

Yet on her 3rd placing at Moonee Valley on March 17, Our Diamond Bright had notched a Class Rating of 36.3, so her Randwick rating of 39.0 was well in line with that performance, showing an improvement of a couple of lengths.

The 'bogey' then, in Our Diamond Bright's form was that poor run at Rosehill. If you had been prepared to forget that, you could have given her a sound chance in the Randwick race. Ah, if only we could have thought that one out before the race!

But that's the way it is in racing. You have to delve and probe into form, and answer questions along the way, if you are to be 'up with the early birds' in figuring out possible form reversals.

The study of ratings can help you in this regard. For instance, your ratings might reveal the following figures for a horse: 42, 45, 46, 21. You can see that the horse has registered three ratings very close to each other and then, for some reason, the most recent rating is only 21 - half of what the horse has been regularly recording.

Alarm bells should start to ring. The question is why the horse's latest rating was so low? This is when you start to analyse its last run to discover if there were elements that made it return such a low rating.

This is where you pinpoint a possible form reversal. The Our Diamond Bright case is a classic example. You would have immediately been suspicious of her 3.8 rating because you would have seen that her previous rating was a 36.3. Why on earth would she have dropped off so badly?

It is probably a clever approach to single out every horse in a race that showed a marked decline in form from its second last start to its last start. You can then have a good look at each of the horses and maybe come up with excuses for some of them which may allow you to bring them in as horses likely to produce form reversals.

You should always check to see if a horse suffered interference during a race. Look at stewards' reports for a sound indication of this. Then there are questions you can pose yourself, like the following:

Did the horse begin awkwardly/ slowly? Did it blunder/knuckle over at the start? Was it checked or blocked for a run at a vital stage? Did it pull up lame? Did it hang in or hang out? Was it forced wide by another horse? Did its jockey ride a bad race? Was it unsuited in the going? Was it racing out of its class? Was it trapped wide from a wide barrier? Did it get shuffled back and lose ground in the early rush?

These are just some of the questions you can pose when trying to decipher a poor run. You could also ask yourself.

Was the horse unsuited by the distance of the race? Was it unsuited by the track itself? Would it be better suited restricted to its own age and sex? Did it need the yet wins next start. But look carefully and run? Was it forced to race in front when it usually races off the pace? Did it have too much weight? Is it simply an unreliable galloper?

The answers to just a few of these questions might be enough to alert you to watch out for a form reversal. Frankly, analysing each horse you find ‘suspicious' is probably the only way you are ever going to ensure that form reversals don't slip past you.

It means hard work but if that hard work can lead you to a shock winner at 25/1 or even longer, then it would all have been worthwhile.

Of course, some form reversals will always remain a mystery. No matter how much you looked at the horse's form you would be unable to find the 'light' that would lead you to think the horse could win next start. In many cases, the answer is in the realm of the 'unknown'-the area in which the average punter is not privy-the stable itself.

Who but the trainer and his stablehands know what happens to the various horses during training, or even in the stable stalls? We know nothing of the day-to-day dramas that take place, the little injuries that are sustained, the horse's off-colour days, his low blood count, etc.

No, the punter has to rely mainly on his form guide. That alone is his guide to what will happen in the future. Study it well.

By Statsman