On April 25 I celebrated my 40th “official” year as a punter, which I calculate via the fact that the first formguide I kept for research purposes was from an Anzac Day meeting of 1967.

Since then I have amassed several thousand dollars worth of formguides, all of which were eventually discarded bar the current batch.

Recently I discussed with a punting mate the advance of the formguides from my early and when he asked me what were the formguides like back in 1967, I had to admit to not being able to remember the exact differences.

Naturally this preyed on my mind and it was an obvious move to make a visit to the State Library of Victoria in Swanston Street, Melbourne and get a copy of my first “official” form guide. Within 20 minutes I had all the pages I needed and some 15 minutes of that period involved learning the printing method and buying a copy card – so next time I need this service I will be well prepared!

Well, I’m shocked to tell you that on that day way back in 1967 there were only six races. I actually checked the next page on the microfiche to make sure I hadn’t missed a couple of races!

Can you imagine the furore that program setup would cause these days? The next obvious difference was that there were 16 tipsters compared to today’s five, with The Sun tipsters providing two Best Bets for the win (currently one) and three Best Place Bets (none today) while the Best From The Tracks is still the same.

When you look at today’s tipster list in The Sun (Herald/Sun), you feel a fraction disappointed in what we laughingly call a Tipsters Poll. In those halcyon days back in 1967, there was the opportunity to use the poll points in a systematic way to create prices for starters and I remember many systems being produced that solely used this poll.

One I remember was for the Daily Double which suggested the top three in the poll and the bottom two multiplied to equal 25 combinations (five horses in each leg). I particularly remember this because when I started work in what was then PMG in 1968, a group of desperadoes on the floor below me had many marvellous collects per year and swore they won each year.

On one occasion they copped a $600 double which covered them for the year. Back then you were also able to tap into a diverse range of selectors from various media outlets but not so now; all you get are The Sun tipsters.

There was no mention of gear changes nor were there any Market Moves but there was a section called “Watch” where three horses were named. Alongside the horses’ names you had the barrier position and the jockey’s name and only ‘t’ for a track winner and ‘w’ for a wet track winner.

In the six furlong (1200m) sprint of the day, the topweight was Winfreux with 9st 11lbs while the bottom weights were weighted at 7st 5lbs. Therefore the spread totals 2.6st or 34lbs; that’s just a tick over 15kg. Can you imagine a horse being weighted with 68kg on a 53kg limit these days?

I mentioned a possible furore earlier with only six races on the card: can you imagine our current batch of  top trainers screaming about how badly their horses were weighted? I can, as they seem to whinge about anything six or 7kg over the limit as it is.

On the way to the library I thought I would “do the form” on the meeting but rather than try and juggle all runners in every race, I would only assess the horses in the pre-post market whose odds totalled a percentage around 90 per cent, which basically was the first four paper favourites.

When I analysed the form I was amazed to note that if a horse finished fourth or worse there was NO beaten margin which, of course, meant a beaten fourth could have been one length or five lengths or worse! This threw me for a moment  because a couple of the runners had run fourth and fifth and I wanted to know their beaten margins but using years of experience I just had a guess.

I also marked down my three Best Bets in order of popularity and I am chuffed to say I “tipped” Bellition 7/2 ($4.50) and got my Best Bet Of The Day (Tornadic) home at 7/4 ($2.75) which meant I actually returned 7.25 units for a six unit outlay, thus ending up winning 1.25 units or plus 20.88 per cent.

It was quite an experience as I remembered many of the names of the horses such as Impromptu, Winfreux, Maritana, Bellition, Dignify, Hialeah and Red William while trainers names like B. Courtney, A. Armanasco, CA. Wilson, ND. Hoysted and Tony Lopes brought back memories, not to mention jockeys like R. Durey, P. Bakos, F. Reys, J. Johnson, H. White, A. Burton and, of course, R. Higgins.

There is little doubt we modern-day punters have an enormous amount of information we can sift through in the quest for winners these days compared to 1967. Not only have the basic formguides improved dramatically, the specialist formguides such as The Sportsman has added extras such as expanded photo results, fluctuations and in recent years sectional times have been include.

We also have the extra bonus of in-running positions for the city track races and some of the country races  and this has helped introduce another type of punter, the race mapper, who attempts to assess how the race is going to be run in a bid to determine which horses will be favoured according to the likely early pace.

As many PPM readers would know by now, I am a “born again” punter who has found my equivalent of punting heaven by concentrating on Perth racing and have started a website (www.kozform.com) based on my selections initially. It will expand into other areas of the punt down the track. By the time you read this I will have added copies of some of my PPM articles.

I have already mentioned in PPM about the enormous amount of information available to Perth punters on the industry site www.waturf.org.au (this I believe is to have an overhaul and name change mid-October), where you can download the racebook, look up the full career of all WA based horses, print out results and  photo finishes and also watch the race replays.

After my experience with the 1967 formguides, I thought I would do some research on what type of information is available to punters on websites that is initially free as well as information that can be bought.

Naturally, I will start with Perth and then move onto the Eastern states. I have mentioned my site and the WA Turf Club site so have a look at those if Perth is of interest to you and, believe me, you should seriously think about Perth. It’s a closed shop area where virtually the same horses race regularly and so life on the punt is easier, in my opinion. There are three other Perth websites I regularly visit for various reasons so let’s visit them.

The first is www.perthturftalk.com which is rapidly building a reputation as one of the sites all devotees of Perth need to join. There are a number of forums available on this site: Perth Racing (totally devoted to Perth only), Other Racing/International Racing (all racing except Perth), Horse Care and Training, Sports, Perth Blackbookers and Competitions.

As I write this I am in a free tipping contest which is ending this week and although I have done well, I had one ordinary week and I am now too far behind to win but hopefully I will finish in the top ten.

In the Archives Section there are previews and reviews of Perth city and country meetings and I read them all as quite often there are interesting comments about the runners that add to my Perth knowledge. Barrier trials are covered with detailed comments and there is also a Punters Club which has just finished and the second club is starting with several of the original members signing up again.

The part of this site I need – as I live in Melbourne – is the Track Information page which not only has aerial photos of most of the tracks but also has the official weather forecasts for the next few days. I particularly like the “On The Money” section written by Matt Rigby from Ascot Bookmaking, as it is purely about how the betting eventuated in each race and contains his thoughts about the merits and minuses of each runner mentioned. It’s always interesting to see how a bookmaker thinks and here is a perfect opportunity to do so.

There are other areas such as the Photo Archive and Classified sections but one of the most vibrant areas is the Perth Forum where Perth fans discuss and  argue (sensibly, I might add) about the merits of the local horses. Currently, Marasco and his deeds in the East have been of particular interest.

The second is a new venture run by none other than PPM contributor Ken Blake at www.puntperth.com.au. On his site, Ken has all the results from across the nation listed by each state, a direct link to the WATC race replays, the stewards’ report for the city meetings, tables of the top 10 trainers and jockeys depicting how you would be going with $1 on each runner.

Ken has a most valuable list of par times available and if you have not read any of his PPM articles then you can find them on the site. Ken also has developed a selection process he calls RADIS which produces ratings for the legs of the quadrellas across the country as well as selected other races and he’s also available to run seminars on the punt.

As I require information on Perth such as scratchings and track conditions quite early, due to time constrictions on Saturday mornings I can be on Ken’s site and be listening to Sport 927 and simply switch over to Perth Racing Radio at 10am EST as he has links on his site to the stations.

The third website is www.perthracing.com.au/ which is fantastic for providing numerous post race articles where key racing figures are interviewed and the merit of various runs are discussed as well as prospects in future races.

They have stories covering racing and other sports across the country; Perth Racing News and Country Calling are just fantastic with the number of relevant articles to Perth, Eastern States Racing is self explanatory and when you add International Racing, Breeding News, Horses For Sale, Other Sporting News and Upcoming Perth Races (direct link to WA Turf site) you realise just how much depth this site has.

So, there we have websites that Perth devotees need to have in their favourites’ list. I’m staggered by what is available via a few keyboard clicks, especially when I look back at what my local city newspaper offered me back in 1967. As I type this I wonder what will be available in another 40 years’ time?

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

By Roman Kozlovski