In previous issues of P.P.M. I have outlined the factors I use to make my most preliminary judgments, simply by looking at the listed fields of runners for a day's racing.

I've told how, within a few minutes, I sort out the non-bettable races and the non-bettable runners in the events that remain under consideration.

Now it is time to start looking at the respective form of the runners who remain as potential contenders in their various events.

Give further investigation only to those runners that have not been totally eliminated by the preliminary rules.

Of these remaining runners, do not back any which have not won at least 3 races. Further, eliminate any that do not have a win-strike rate of at least 20% - if you are harsh you will not settle for less than a 25% win rate.

Next look at your contenders' performances at the particular track, then over the appropriate distance. Comprehensive form guides generally provide this information in an easy-tread format.

On many occasions you will discover a horse that most pundits consider to be a winning chance has a poor record at the upcoming venue. I usually am very wary of any horse which has had 6 or 7 starts at a track without winning. I apply a similar rule to the distance of the race.

Even more important is the anticipated condition of the racing surface. As a rule of thumb, if a horse has not been placed at least 50% of the time under the prevailing track conditions, I am not interested in backing it.

The next 'terminator I use is this:

Has it 'been a long time between drinks' for its connections? Has the horse been out of the winning list for, say, more than 9 or 10 months? If it has, I give it 'the flick' UNLESS the horse has had a lengthy spell in the intervening period.

Very few horses win when they have been out of the winning list for such a long time.

Next I take a quick look at the weights my remaining contenders have been carrying, to assess whether they are capable of carrying the weight allotted for the event in question. If the form shows that the horse gets continually beaten carrying the upcoming impost, I'm very wary.

I also don't like to see horses which have been allotted 54.5kg and above carrying more than 1.5kg greater than they humped at their previous run or 2 runs.

Certainly they are entitled to be raised in weight as they drop in class, but runners entitled to a rise of greater than 1.5kg are few and far between.

Now comes the time to consider where a runner is likely to be positioned during an event. Over distances up to 1400 metres, if the horse's racing habits indicate that it cannot maintain a reasonably forward position, and is therefore likely to be squeezed back or 'snookered', I generally prefer to treat it as a risk, especially at short odds.

I like runners who carry my money to have a record of being positioned in the first 6 on the home turn. Believe me, you'll go broke backing what today's race callers term 'scoopers.'

"Sweepers' is a more applicable term as far as I am concerned. They will have you sweeping the streets for a living if you continue to put your trust in them.

We have not got down to 'weights and measures' (as my old mentor Clif Cary taught me) yet. That's where the really time-consuming study comes in. Before that we have at least one more factor to consider: the jockey.

Jockeys are a subject on which I could write a whole column (and will one day!) but for now let me advise you to be aware of any rider who is 'running hot'. Success breeds further success and confidence and in turn attracts better mounts and therefore results in further victories.

Likewise, be aware of the riders who are out-of-form. "Mighty" Mick Dittman has been one over the past few months. In Melbourne, so is Michael Clarke.

In press interviews I've seen, both blame the lack of quality mounts for their absence from the winners' list. To my mind, their lack of success relates to the last section of the paragraph that sits two above this one.

I find it quite puzzling the way some of our best riders seem to come 'in' and 'out of' form. For a couple of weeks they will suddenly ride like The Man From Snowy River, then just as suddenly go right off the boil and appear to resemble a sack of spuds on a broomstick.

I have a belief that the vagaries relate directly to dedication and attitude. But whatever the rationalisation, it doesn't matter to us as punters. Ours not to reason why; ours but to do and die.

And die you will, as a punter, if you put your faith in out-of-form, or just plain crook jockeys.

Network Ten may be Australia's battling network in-so-far as finances and ratings go, but if the improvement in the stand and of its outside telecasts is any criterion far better times are ahead.

I doubt if any team anywhere in the world could have surpassed its television coverage of the Melbourne Cup Spring Carnival.

It was simply outstanding. In my view, on every one of the four days, the Ten team easily eclipsed the Channel 9 coverage of Cox Plate Day.

In previous years the Network Ten coverage seemed designed to be watched by lunatics. It was trite and often inane.

This year everyone was 'spot on'. Congratulation to all who worked on the transmissions. Fantastic!

By Russ Writer