It would be nice to think that we had real, old-time newspaper wars in Australia, but the reality is that most papers are all owned in the same interests and any competition is something of an accident.

In Brisbane, just a decade ago, there were three daily newspapers, the Courier-Mail, the Telegraph and The Sun. The latter two are no more than memories now. The CourierMail remains, bestriding the local scene with a definite sense of arrogance.

The only opposition, if we can call it that, comes from The Australian, and the small number of interstate papers like the Sydney Daily Telegraph, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Melbourne HeraldSun.

There are, though, many plusses for the Courier-Mail when it comes to its coverage of the racing scene. There are one or two areas that remain a niggling nuisance, but, overall, the picture is quite bright.

I think the one thing that punters appreciate from a daily newspaper is a liftout formguide. This applies to weekdays as well as Saturdays. Few papers comply. The Courier-Mail is one that does.

From Tuesdays to Saturdays, regularly, and occasionally on Mondays, it provides a liftout guide. The midweekers range from 4-page guides to 8-pagers. On Fridays, the weekend guide is produced. It runs to 20 pages. Another 8-pager is produced on Saturdays.

The midweek guides provide the usual fields, trainers and jockeys, along with a betting market, and potted form comments on most meetings (sometimes these are confined to a handful of races).

Let's concentrate, though, on the big weekend guide that is published in the Friday edition. The Courier-Mail calls it 'Superform' (some lack of originality here!) and it has the Saturday Brisbane meeting on its front page, complete with colour graphics of each runner's jockey silks. 


This is the same sort of information provided in Best Bets and it is most useful indeed these days, given the growth of TV coverage of racing. Knowing the colours the jockeys carry is a great help in spotting your chosen horse through a race. 

The Courier-Mail prints the colours just above the runners and riders for each race. I find myself referring to them a lot throughout the course of a meeting. 

Detailed form is provided for the Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne meetings. This covers each runner's last four starts, plus a reference to each horse's last win. A typical race formline reads like this:

SUPREME ECHO WON Aug 18/99 21 nk C Cst C&G Hcp (C3) 1400m 53 (S Seamer 9) 14 strs Lim 53 122.34 Lt 600m 35.37 Tk good Aquaeus 57 2 Kimble 54 3 5-2 (fav) 3rd Settled 4th 400.

This tells us that Supreme Echo won on August 18 at the Gold Coast in a Class 3 for colts and geldings over 1400m. The margins were 2 lengths and a neck. He carried 53kg and was ridden by Scott Seamer from barrier 9. The Limit weight for the race was 53kg. The race was run in lm 22.34s, the final 600m in 35.37s. The track rating
was good (firm) and Aquaeus carrying 57kg ran 2nd and Kimble (54kg) was 3rd. Supreme Echo started favourite at 5/2. He settled 3rd in the running and was 4th at the 400m mark.

As well as four formlines like this one, the Courier-Mail provides other information about each runner, covering colour, sex, breeding, trainer, silks, prizemoney earned, career record, all performances split into Fast, Good, Dead, Slow and Heavy brackets, performances at the current track, at the distance of the current race, winning distances and first-up (from spell) efforts.

Combine all this and you give yourself a pretty clear picture of what a horse has done and what it's likely to be capable of in the future.

The Superform guide has a 'tipsters' panel' containing the selections of seven tipsters, six of them from the newspaper itself, the other one usually from Australian Associated Press (AAP).

There are also tipsters' panels for the Sydney and Melbourne meetings, though these show only five tipsters.

The Saturday meeting in Adelaide gets a form coverage as well, though this is restricted to each runner's last 2 or 3 starts. Not that I'm complaining. At least it's an effort to give the Adelaide meeting some coverage and I'm sure it's appreciated by those readers who pour their money on those meetings.


The Gold Coast meeting gets a good form coverage, too. It's a most popular meeting for Queensland punters and has much support interstate on those TABs that provide betting coverage.

A most interesting aspect of the Superform guide is its Trackwatch section. This contains detailed comments on selected horse by track clockers from Eagle Farm (Les Green), Doomben (Stephen Rodgers), Gold Coast (Russ Maddock) and Toowoomba.

You can pick up some good winners from this section, though it has to be said that lots of losers are also recommended!

Sometimes the advice can be slightly off key. In the column for August 28, the trackman remarked that Another Marauder 'needs a dry track'. He came out and won on a slow track.


The Superform guide also contains fields and tips for minor gallops, trots and dogs meetings run on Fridays and Saturdays.

Superform, then, is a fine example of what can be done by a daily newspaper to provide a comprehensive formguide for its readers. Naturally, because of space constraints, there are limits to what any newspaper can provide.

I think the Courier-Mail goes about as close as you're going to get to having a national newspaper formguide.

Down south, there are several other guides that can lay claim to being in the top-class bracket. I'll be writing about the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Daily Telegraph in the November PPM.

The Melbourne Herald-Sun offers a daily pullout guide and a very good one it is, too. However, it does have a strong Melbourne/Victoria bias.

This applies to the weekend guide as well. The 'Superform' (there's that tired old name again) guide it publishes on Fridays is an excellent one so far as Melbourne racing is concerned.

The information is attractively presented, with useful items like strike rates for jockeys and trainers, gear changes and a tipsters' poll for 8 tipsters drawn from a variety of sources.

The formlines are identical to those published in the CourierMail's Superform. The Herald-Sun tends to give a lot of space to greyhound racing, which leads me to suspect that it's all being paid for by the TAB or the racing industry.

Midweek, the Herald-Sun's guide has some interesting column pieces from writers like Shane Templeton. Lots of tips are handed out, along with horses to follow, and there's also a section for horses that are placed on the 'not to be backed' list!

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By Brian Blackwell