In this article, we introduce a new P.P.M. contributor, Philip Roy, a retired bank manager from Sydney who has been a devoted 'form analyst' for 40 years. Here he examines why winning horses won - by looking at the secrets revealed in their formlines.

Whenever a horse wins that we haven't backed, don't we all ask ourselves the same question: Why did it win, and why didn't I realise it could win? Sometimes the answers are elusive. But most times there is a valid reason for why one horse beats the others.

I'll use as an example, the Rosehill meeting of November 21, simply because it's the closest to when I write this article. I'll examine the winners one by one, and offer explanations for why they scored.

Race 1: 2yo. Colts and Geldings, 1100m.

The winner, in what was a tough race because of the lack of exposed form from the youngsters, was Tiba Tiba, trained by Ian Macpherson at Randwick. Well-fancied in the betting at 7/4 favouritism, it wasn't too hard to choose this son of AI Hareb. His two barrier trial wins, both at Randwick over 797m, were the key. He had won comfortably both times. Other horses in the race had fair form, but it did appear Tiba Tiba's trial form was too good for them.

Race 2:2yo. Fillies, 1100m.

Here we saw the 13/8 favourite Mighty Dragon score an easy win. From a country stable, you could certainly have chosen her had you taken a line through her debut win at Randwick on November 7, when she overcame a slow start to finish well and beat Entrance and Eleura Miss by a half neck and 3.5 lengths. Only one other runner seemed to measure up against this winning form, and this was Mrs Holines, which eventually finished a disappointing 4th. City winning form looked good and that's how it proved with Mighty Dragon.

Race 3: 3yo. & Up, Fillies/Mares 1350m.

This was a race in which the winner, Northern Beauty, was despised in the betting at 66/1. But was her form that bad? Well, last start three weeks previously, she'd finished 2.5 lengths.

3rd over 1250m at Canterbury after showing good speed to the turn. Before that, she'd won a 1200m Maiden at Kembla Grange, and 10 days before that was 2nd there when resuming from a spell. Go back to December 21 last year and you find that she ran 4th of 12 to Discriminate and Slight Chance (!!!) at Randwick. Ah, maybe that race was the key we should have been looking for! So, really, Northern Beauty's form wasn't too bad at all, was it? Certainly she shaped as a better than 66/1 chance.

Race 4: 3yo. Handicap, 1300m.

There were chances galore in this race. Rich Pageantry actually won but was relegated to 3rd on protest and Flirtatious Me was promoted to first place. Flirtatious Me had sound form. He was a last-start-winner 14 days earlier at Randwick and had run a good 4th at Rosehill on October 24. Looking back to last season, we see that he won over 1200m at Rosehill - a nice guide to this race. Rich Pageantry, too, was a Rosehill winner over 1200m last May and had resumed from a spell to win at Hawkesbury over 1 000m on November 5, so a case could certainly be made out for her. She was a Jack Denham entry, too.

Race 5: Open Handicap, 2400m.

At first glance, this seemed a small but difficult race to assess. But, on reflection, the winner, Many Hands, definitely had the essentials required a last-start 2nd over 1900m at Canterbury and before that a 2nd over 2000m at Rosehill. Pretty convincing stuff. She had to be taken on trust over 2400m but so had the opposition!

Race 6:4yo. up, Restricted Handicap, 1500m.

Another form horse got home in this. Welsh Miner went into the race following a comfortable win at Canberra over 1400m on November 11. Before that he'd run a sound race for a length 4th at Randwick over 1600m. His win strike stood at 28 per cent and his place strike at 71.4 per cent from 14 starts. Nothing much wrong with this 4yo. gelding at all!

Race 7:4yo up, Restricted Handicap, 1200m.

Once more, the form student could easily have latched on to the winner, Avenger Bay, whose form credentials were almost impeccable. The 6yo last start had run 3rd at Randwick over 1100m just 18 days earlier, and that run had followed a narrow 2nd at Rosehill over 1200m. With four wins to his name over the 1200m, Avenger Bay came into the race with exceptional qualifications.

Race 8: Welter, 1350m.

If you thought form was looking good at this meeting, then the lucky last protect it again. He's No Saint, a last start winner over 1250m at Canterbury a week previously, confirmed the form with a sound win. It was his fourth run from a spell and he obviously was fit, and appreciated having to carry only 51kg.

So there you have it, a review of one day's racing in Sydney, in which all the winners seemed to have sound enough credentials to make any punter happy to back them. Even the 66/1 shot Northern Beauty was not coming into the winner's stall after a period of poor runs.

My advice to any punter is to look at past results. Check out each winner's recent starts, jot them down in a large notebook, and soon you'll start to build up a pattern of form predictors. Some factors will soon highlight themselves and you'll be able to quickly track down runners with winning qualifications.


By Philip Roy