There is peril awaiting any punter, as we all know. As soon as you decide to tackle a race, you face financial danger. You can win ... or you can take a beating.

Betting on city tracks holds its terrors. Betting on the lower-classified provincial tracks holds even more terrors. Form can be more difficult to fathom, surprises are often the order of the day.

Yet there is still a strong vein of 'form' running through provincial racing. I believe you can concentrate on formful horses and end up making money. It's not easy, but it can be done.

I would say that the key problem with provincial racing is that punters study the form to a lesser degree than they do the weekend racing. This is because (a) most don't have enough spare time during the week and (b) they don't have enough form available in the newspapers.

Meetings held on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are the trickiest days. On Mondays, we usually have poor quality meetings anyway, at very minor tracks (Orange, Muswellbrook, Goulburn, Wauchope etc.) and these meetings attract what I call the full-time punter, the man or woman who loves a bet, mainly for fun, on anything!

Tuesday meetings are a different thing altogether. But what form is available for most punters? The Sportsman runs potted form lines in a pullout section, Q Bet in Brisbane does the same, and various newspapers run similar potted form comments (all the comments by the way, are the same for every publication because they all emanate from the one source, Australian Associated Press, AAP).

The one light in the darkness is the Sporting Globe, which offers a full form coverage of the Victorian and N.S.W. TAB meetings.

So, unless you have access to the Globe or your own form database to call upon in a computer, you can not properly study Tuesday form. Thursday meetings cop the same treatment. This time, though, there is no Sporting Globe around to provide relief.

Friday meetings - and there are a growing number of them - receive virtually no detailed coverage in the newspapers. All you get are the fields, weights, barriers and jockeys and, sometimes, a pre-post market.

Once again, the sole provider of any detailed form is the Sporting Globe (Weekend Edition) which gives full form coverage to the Friday Victorian TAB meeting (usually at tracks like Terang, Traralgon or Warmambool).

Bearing this in mind, how can the average punter latch on to a system that just might enable him to make a dollar or two? My advice is that you follow the Press tipsters in this regard. But only on certain horses.

Recently, a P.P.M. reader from Newcastle sent me a cutting from a newspaper dated in the 1960s. It was the results of research over 10 years hi Britain, the United States and Australia and it concluded that certain 'form patterns' for a horse's last three starts could be most significant.

Mat it showed was that certain three figure combinations for a horse's last three starts produce a far greater overall percentage of winners than others. Moreover, the best of them show a remarkably high level of consistent success.

The figures were as follows:

So the operating instructions for the provincial meeting selections - when no other useful form is available-are simple and require only a few minutes' work each day.

Examine every selection of your paper's tipsters (all three for each race) and pick out only those which have recorded any of the above three-figure form combinations for their last three starts. hi this way, you can locate several horses a day that have what I call a double-plus factor in their favour.

They have been included in the newspaper expert's first three selections - and they come into the race with whining formlines.

Now, nothing guarantees a profit in racing - as we well know! But this system, whether you use it on provincial and country tracks or at city meetings has real potential for profitability. You are automatically on some of the best bets your newspaper has to offer, and you know you are on horses whose formlines have proven they can 'hit' at a most significant strike rate for the win.

It is difficult to recommend further elimination rules for this system, because I am working on the basis that any detailed form is unavailable. What happens if you get two horses hi a race? Obviously, you back both if prices permit, but if not then you take the runner, which is the first choice of the tipster or the one whose formlines have the greater strike rate.

Example: You have two horses qualifying. One is the tipster's first choice the other is his third choice. But the first choice has the formlines of 1-3-1 against the other runner's 4-2-1. We can see that 1-3-1 has a win strike of 33.5 per cent, while 4-2-1 has only 27 percent. So the 1-3-1 horse is the selection.

By Jon Hudson