They are there in front of us every day. They hold the clues to winners. Why, then, do we consistently ignore them?

I am, you may realise already, talking about stewards' reports. Yes, that 'old faithful" which we have heard mentioned so many times when it comes to winners being grinners.

Fact is, though, that the more punters who ignore them the better it is, odds wise, for those who do read them and take notice of what is written.

I have urged before in PPM that it's VITAL punters refer to stewards' reports when doing the form on ANY race. There is no excuse not to because the reports are freely available on the various State bodies, websites.

Racing NSW has an excellent section devoted entirely to stewards' reports. You can download whichever meeting you want in a PDF file. It also has a ready reference to reports relating to runners at a meeting.

Victoria offers all its stewards' reports in a special section at the Racing Services Bureau. Queensland Racing does the same.

Racenet website also carries a link from meetings to abbreviated stewards' reports.

As you can see, there is no reason why any punter should miss vital clues contained in the reports, providing you have an Internet service (and very few people do not have it these days).

Let's just look at a couple of recent instances whereby the astute punter could have picked up from a stewards' report and landed good winners.

Kadazan, 1st 150/1 Canterbury, December 22.

The stewards at this horse's previous start, when he ran 4.4 lengths 8th at Gosford on December 15, spotted the 5yo striking plenty of trouble in the run. Their report stated:

Kadazan was held up for clear running rounding the home turn and unable to be tested in the straight.

It's been my experience that whenever stewards say that a horse was 'unable to be tested' in the final stages that this is a warning signal for the punter to take very careful notice.

If you then check with a video replay, you will usually see a runner that is hopelessly blocked for clear running and unable to be extricated from a pocket.

You will see the jockey more or less stop riding and the horse going to the line strongly but without being pushed.

The folks who got on to Kadazan must have been few and far between. He was sent out at 150/1 at the Canterbury night meeting and with Leeanne Olsen riding in great touch he stormed down the outside to win over the 1900m.

We can now look at another winner, not at such big odds but at a good price anyway, in Khaptrina, who scored at 8/1 at Kembla Grange on December 31.

PPD Club editor Brian Blackwell, an avid watcher of video replays, picked up on Khaptrina's performance at her previous start when she ran 8th of nine at Canterbury on December 16. The stewards' report echoed what Brian had picked up on the replay. It stated:

Khaptrina did not obtain clear running at any stage in the straight and was therefore not fully tested in the run to the finish.

So there was the clue. Yes, Khaptrina had run 8th of nine but WHY had she finished in that position?

The stewards' report provided the answer and a viewing of the replay would have revealed all. Khaptrina was totally locked up on the inside. No way could she get out of the pocket.

Here's what Brian told PPD Club members in making Khaptrina his headlined Daily Special at Kembla Grange:

It's not often I turn to the provincials on Saturday, but I can't resist tipping (3) Khaptrina 6/1 in race 5, a Cl 2 1200m at Kembla Grange. Guy Walter's 4yo grey mare has raced twice at KG for a win and a 2nd. The win was four starts back in a Cl 1 for fillies and mares 1400m on Apr 14. She resumed from a spell on Dec 16 and ran a most unlucky 8th of nine at Canterbury 1100m.

Back on the rails throughout she was bolting on the turn but found herself completely locked up on the rails and she went to the line untested. Had she got clear I fancy she would have been right in the money. Patrick Murphy claims 3kg so she gets in with 52.5kg.

So there you are. A horse runs second last in a race and the formline figure is enough to put most punters off backing it. But there's a story behind it, and if you can unearth that story then you can be on a really well priced winner.

There are many other instances I could raise but we don't have enough space in this article to show them all.

Believe me, though, a daily scanning of stewards' reports will do a great deal to lifting your understanding of form, and to leading you to some value winners.

Spend that little extra time checking the reports relating to various runners in a race and it will all pay off, often handsomely, as in the cases of Kadazan and Khaptrina.

By Martin Dowling