As we embrace the new millennium, a term called "time poor" has become a catchphrase to describe the relationship developing between stressed workers constantly under pressure to deliver profits for their companies and their families.

As a parent of four children, aged from 7 to 17, and as a husband to a wife working 30 hours per week and undertaking a university degree, and as a keen form analyst/punter who goes beyond a five-minute look at the form, does it surprise that my time is also of paramount importance?

How do I allot my time to the punt, to my family, to my work as a teacher-librarian and to my friends? The answer, as legendary racecaller Bert Bryant used to say, is 'a pineapple'.

In this series I shall detail my punting week covering VRC Derby Day, the Melbourne Cup, Oaks Day and the final day of the four-day spring carnival, Emirates Stakes Day, as well as a quick look at the Kyneton Cup. You will see how I attempt my juggling act with Father Time.

In preparation for Derby Day, and for most serious punting days, I download the weights for the great day from the Cyberhorse Internet site on Wednesday. This enables me to get a feel of the possible fields. Also, if I'm in doubt about any horse's recent runs, I have the time to check the video replays.

It's a good idea to download the fields this early because there will be many times you'll note horses that have been entered all over the place recently and, depending on where they are trained in comparison to where they have been entered and where they finally start, you may gain valuable "stable" information without even entering the stable or knowing the staff.

Think your way through this premise and you will see there is value in the concept because at times it'll seem as if you know exactly what the trainer is thinking.

On Thursday, my anticipation mounting, I buy the Melbourne Truth formguide. I like the layout and the comments in the formlines such as "fought hard", "wide all way", "checked at 120Om", etc. There's also enough room for my little comments. It's become a common sight to see me hunched like Quasimodo on the tram or train going home, circling, ticking, underlining or cross-marking various factors as I go through my A versus B elimination process.

Briefly, for those without a copy of the March 1998 edition of PPM, where I first unveiled this concept, my A versus B elimination process entails considering TAB No 1 against TAB No 2 and determining which of the two would win if they were involved in a two-horse race.

I then do the same for TAB No 3 versus TAB No 4, TAB No 5 versus TAB No 6 and so on, with each of the "winners" of the "two-horse" races being allotted the letter A and the "losers" the letter B.

I repeat the same steps for all the A winners and then again for the winners of that group and via this elimination process I'm able to whittle a field down to my top selection fairly quickly.

Once I have this final A selection, I subject it to a deeper form analysis to discover if I've missed anything vital. I complete this process on Thursday night and, of all the races on Derby Day, it's obvious the Victoria Derby is THE race worthy of most consideration.

I awake Friday morning at my usual workday 5am. The first thing I think about is getting a copy of Sportsman. I read all the articles about the coming weekend's events. Some of the articles are terrific, especially those by Mark Read, whose astute comments relative to his Read Ratings methodology are a must to read.

There is some sort of consensus amongst serious punters that under no circumstances should you consider any other punter's opinions in any shape or form. This is hogwash. I think it's vital you digest as much of the available pre-race and post-race comments as possible. These will give you a diverse range of opinions - and THEN you make your judgements.

There are many little one-liners tucked away in articles and in pre-race radio comments that can all play a part in the cosmos of an event and you'd be foolish not to consider them.

With the Sportsman in hand, I circle the days since last run, distance runs, track runs and track condition runs in the Chart-form pages, using a series of circles and crosses which begin to give me a broad profile of the runners.

It takes me one-and-a-half hours to get to work from home but there's about an hour's reading time during the travelling.

As the workday drags on, I await the dismissal time with impatience. I know that on the way home I can do another hour's form study, providing I don't nod off! On two memorable occasions I ended up at the last station on the wrong line due to being so engrossed in the formguide. I can only imagine the thoughts of my fellow travellers as I gradually turn my formguides into a sheet resembling a road map.

Friday night is spent at home studying just that little more and it's now some three to four hours of ticking this and circling that and I am just about finished. All that remains is to make sure of the track conditions in the morning and note the scratchings.

I awake at about 6am, sprint to the BP station for my newspapers and take a quick look at any articles relevant to the main races of interest. At 7am I awake my daughter Mary, 11, who needs dear old dad to do a bit of chauffeuring to the cricket.

Naturally, the earphones are in use as I listen to Sport 927. I am deaf to Mary's pleas on the way home to switch the dial to another, more musical station.

The main race of the day is the Victoria Derby and most Punters would agree that the main chances are Shogun Lodge, Freemason, Diatribe, Blackfriars, Chief Scout and Liberty Hall, all based on formlines around the Norman Robinson Stakes and the AAMI Vase events of previous meetings.

Using my elimination process I compare Shogun Lodge with Freemason and quite clearly Shogun Lodge is rated better on the class factor as he has beaten Sunline at wfa.

The comparison of Blackfriars and Diatribe leaves me with Blackfriars, mainly because Diatribe's two recent wins were on the softer MV Strathayr surface and he may just be a good Valley horse. Chief Scout versus Liberty Hall finds me leaning towards Bart Cummings and the sire Zabeel, plus I note in one of the writeups that Bart was not too happy with Damien Oliver's ride last time, saying "he must have thought he was on Sky Heights", thus hinting that the jockey will ride Liberty Hall a fraction more wisely this time. I am also worried about Chief Scout's site which, so far, is not in the Zabeel class.

It's only a little niggling doubt but it's enough.

I now compare Shogun Lodge versus Blackfriars versus Liberty Hall with the latter instantly at third because, after reading the comments by Bart, I viewed the replay of the Norman Robinson Stakes, and it was painfully obvious that Blackfriars and Shogun Lodge were THE runners of the race.

Shogun Lodge was reported to have slipped and slid around Caulfield on the damp track and his effort to be beaten only a half length was sensational. Blackfriars showed the same sort of courage, if not better, by looking beaten at the 600m and yet getting up to win. Punters should ALWAYS look for courageous horses and I felt both horses turned in extremely brave efforts in the Norman Robinson.

In the final analysis I went for Blackfriars, in part because of another writeup which analysed the absolutely magnificent staying breeding of Blackfriars. I realised then that if it came to a struggle at the clocktower, then Blackfriars would tough it out better. And so it happened, along with a protest to really cement the race into our minds for the AJC Derby in the autumn.

Blackfriars won at 11 / 4 from Shogun Lodge at 5/2 with the quinella paying $7.20 and the exacta $15.80. A nice result all round.

A treat is in store for Sunday as my pal Edward Jay (another PPM contributor) has secured tickets to the taping of SKY Channel's Racing Retro show at Flemington racecourse at 9am.

It's a fairly brisk morning, but the stirring amongst Richard Freedman, Kenny Callender and Simon Marshall produces an excellent racing experience. This is one of the aspects of horse-racing that has always grabbed my attention, the sheer enjoyment of it, and I often think about those punters who seem so disgruntled at the track or in the TAB. I wonder why they bother.

The TV show finishes at lunchtime and a race called the Melbourne Cup (!) is next on the agenda. I spend the rest of Sunday with my littlest, Joanne, just fossicking at our local parks, reading the form (naturally) and generally relaxing. There's a tough time ahead.

Firstly, I get to thinking about the Calcutta I am helping to run at work the next day! I am amazed at the amounts of money the syndicates are prepared to outlay to buy a roughie in a pool of about $500 ($250 to the winner) with, for instance, Figurehead ($140 for the win on the early TAB figures) going for $12, which
equates to 12/1!

The Melbourne Cup used to be a particularly hard race in the days when the average handicappers won the race but in the last few years it's become a race for wfa horses and proven stayers. In the final analysis I decide that Sky Heights looks the best bet since Let's Elope. I back him accordingly and, as you all know, he is knocked rotten several times early in the race. Somewhat frustrated, I vow to never bet seriously in this race again.

I marvel at the genius of Bart Cummings, who has won 11 Melbourne Cups in the 34 years since his first with Light Fingers in 1965 and I also marvel at my form assessment techniques.

I had the runnerup, Central Park, in my main chances and yet I couldn't find a spot for the horse that easily won the wfa Mackinnon Stakes and which was trained by the master himself and was backing up in three days, a technique not unknown to this great man. There was also the huge drop in weight, a factor I always look for in the big races.

Trouble was I'd been unimpressed by Rogan Josh's defeat of Rebel, who I remember winning the wfa 1200m Rupert Steele Stakes. I concluded that Rogan Josh's effort was just a win, and told myself that he'd finished behind Sky Heights in the Caulfield Cup and was unlikely to finish in front of him this time.

I could not have been more wrong. I also decide that The Hind lacks the class to win and at the Calcutta I had confidently stated that if Lahar won the Cup I'd run naked down the middle of the local street!

Mercifully, she managed only equal 3rd but it was a close-run thing.

The two things I learn about the '99 Cup are these: never downgrade Bart Cummings trained horses in the big races (by the way, I didn't like Allez Suez in the Epsom, either) and always concentrate on wfa class horses, regardless of all things.

Anyway, that's all history now but next year I'll remember.

With Cup day out of the way, the Kyneton Cup is next and looking quickly at the form on Tuesday night I believe there are two main chances, Taberann and Gascoigne, with the next level including the improving Tor-vill 'N' Dean, Sir Linford and Sugar Shock. I take the trifectas AB and BA to win into the others for 2nd and 3rd, plus the AB exacta and a box exacta the lot.

Taberann wins the race but, alas, Gascoigne weakens after leading and when Filligan flops into 2nd place I am now losing for the carnival. Perhaps I should have made more effort to bet for the win in the Kyneton Cup, but I didn't and that's that. When you're at work, you just don't have the time to get your bets exactly right.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Roman Koz