This series will be devoted to midweek racing, mostly at the provincial and country centres, though city racing will be mentioned because it plays a key role in midweek racing.

There are any number of questions a punter can pose as he or she wades through the form on a provincial meeting. Each of us has a personal way of dealing with the details and arriving at a conclusion.

As editor of the Practical Punting Club on the Internet, my job is to sift through the form every day. It’s a huge and demanding task to come up with one or two prime selections each day.

Because of the enormity of the job, I tend to work in a systematic way as I wade through the formlines. Over the years the way I work out my selections has changed significantly in that I have more and more become a video watcher rather than a studier of the ins and outs of formlines.

Often this means I will ignore shifts in weight and settle on a horse who was unlucky last start and who has the capability of making sharp improvement.

There was a recent instance at a midweek Sandown meeting when I selected a mare to win even though she was worse off at the weights with another runner compared to the last time they met. Now, I was willing to ignore the negative weight line because I believed the mare could have done a lot better at her previous start had she enjoyed a bit more luck.

As it turned out, in this case I was wrong. She was unplaced and the runner who met her at the best of the weights ran 3rd, a length or two ahead of her.

I say this just to alert you to the fact that my emphasis is often on the actual performance of a horse last start rather than overall form and weight lines. The “video special” will often outperform those horses with what look like better formlines.

But let’s get back to the start, and I’ll begin with a warning:


Which races? Mostly, the Maidens. Why? Because there can often be a mixture of poorly performed horses and first starters plus the usual handful of runners with apparent strong formlines. It’s a potent mixture that many times will throw up a shock result, and one that most punters simply would not be able to predict.

Let me show you an example: as I write this, Fuji Riva has just won a Maiden 1110m at Werribee (on August 6) and the 3yo filly paid odds of more than 16/1.

Could you have chosen this winner ahead of other runners in the field? Well, it’s possible but unlikely. Fuji Riva had started only once before, finishing a well-beaten? (6.6 lengths) 6th of 13 in a Terang Maiden back on April 4.

Without a full study of the entire field on video replay there is little or no chance that you could have picked Fuji Riva, taking the form at face value. The only real clue lay in watching a replay of its one and only start.

This reveals that Fuji Riva was caught wide and back midfield to the turn at Terang and in the straight made a little bit of ground, despite racing greenly, to finish in 7th place.

At this point, Fuji Riva’s performance has to be measured against those of her rivals. Was that Terang run BETTER than any of their efforts last start, or the start before?

This is where your considered judgement comes in. The public (that’s you) sent Pescara out the favourite at 2/1. Looking at the formguide, the only reason seems to be that the 4yo mare is trained by Tony Vasil. She was having her first start.

Obviously, there was some talk around about her (maybe on TVN) but probably it was more likely the crowd hit on her because they couldn’t make challenging cases for other runners in the field.

Pescara was unplaced. She was always toiling in the second half of the field and didn’t possess a finishing blow. In contrast, Fuji Riva didn’t race greenly as she had at her debut outing in April, she was nicely placed up on the pace and kicked away in the final 200m for a comfortable win.

So, we ask ourselves? How come she was able to win the race?

Well, to be frank, this was the question that should have been asked BEFORE the race. Which brings me to a major point in my approach, and something which I believe all punters should be aware of and carry out.

ASK QUESTIONS. Do your best to answer them as rationally and as carefully as you can. Each runner in a race deserves your attention. Yes, even those “scrubbers” who’ve run 10th, 12th, 13th and so on at their recent starts.

Sometimes, not often, a dig into their performances can reveal informative insights into their failures. Reasons why they apparently performed poorly. Reasons why they ended up at the rear.

The first thing I do when I look at a field of runners is to mark off the trainers I like. These are trainers who have consistently landed the money for me.

On the Victorian tracks, my elite stables are as follows:


These are trainers who regularly have runners on city and provincial/country tracks in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria. They get a good share of winners.

Once I’ve marked off the runners from these stables on my Best Bets form sheet (printed out from its Internet service), I have a starting point. I am not, at this stage, interested in anyone else’s view on the race, and I am not interested in any early betting market.

I like to approach the race free from outside opinions. It’s better that way, for me at least. I want to use my judgement and not be swayed by anyone else.

My next task is to check my list of horses I have chosen from watching video replays. I keep these in my “black book” list, using the Racenet service (free). You list all the horses you wish to follow, and Racenet sends you an email advising you when they are engaged to start in a race. This usually arrives the day before a meeting.

Naturally, I’ll check out the video runner first. Many times this horse will be good enough to qualify as a selection or, at the least, a co-selection. Horses that I use as video specials have something “extra” to bring with them to their next start.

Now that I have the “best” trainers ticked off, I’ll go through the form of their runners. And this is where I start asking questions.

The key question is this:


The second question is this:


A word of caution, and probably pessimism, at this point: It’s this. You are always, I mean ALWAYS, going to be proved WRONG more times than you are right. Try 70 per cent of the time WRONG!

Yes, no matter how good you are, over a period of time, say 12 months, you will hit the winner probably 30 times every 100 races. Sometimes, you might manage a bit more. If you are brilliant. Sometimes you won’t even manage 30 per cent. Realistically, 25 per cent is more like it.

Anyway, ask the questions I have referred to because, in a nutshell, this is what form analysis is all about. Can it win? Why won’t it win?

Try to be always positive. If you’ve backed a horse before and it’s run poorly, don’t take a mindset against it. Give it a chance for redemption by studying its form and finding out WHY it failed. Put that performance in the context of the current race.

Perhaps that was a higher class race and now it’s down in class? Perhaps it struck bad luck? Perhaps it was a bad ride? Maybe the track conditions didn’t suit? Perhaps the race was run at a farcical pace which didn’t suit? Maybe it was caught wide and covered lots of extra ground?

In next month’s PPM, in the second part of this series, I’ll take you through more of my approach. I’ll look at which runners to discard, which to focus on, and how to narrow the field down to a few key runners.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.

By Brian Blackwell