Redkirk Warrior ridden by Regan Bayliss wins the Bobbie Lewis Quality at Flemington Racecourse on September 16 2017

Beginner's guide to picking a winner

When I was a boarder in my last few years at high school my morning ritual was a little different to the rest of the students. I would get up early, go for a big run or head to team sport training, shower and get into my school uniform, and then head to the boarders’ dining room where I would sit and read the paper. Not from front to back, but from back to front. I was all about sport even in my teens! I’d read up on the footy and the cricket, and then sink in to all of the articles about racing, concluding with a final review of the form guide stuck neatly in middle to check out the runners of the day, whether it be at Sandown or Pakenham. You can imagine the really weird looks I got from the rest of the students and teachers alike!

Sometimes my mates would sit down and try and have a ‘squiz’ as well, but would fail because the guide was too daunting. And for a novice, it is. It’s a massive page of numbers, letters, weird names and just general chaos. I understand it’s pretty scary, but I promise if I give you a few tips, it’ll make your life a bit easier and you might really enjoy trying to find a winner in the guide!

Now I won’t take you through every detail; just a few to get you by!

The horse’s name is the first ‘odd’ thing you see! Followed by the jockey, and the trainer. Over the Spring, the big trainers will be up and firing. Look for Chris Waller, Gai Waterhouse, Darren Weir, James Cummings – these guys are some of the best trainers in the country. If you want to sound super knowledgeable, know that Chris Waller trains the mighty mare Winx! As for jockeys, we have so much talent in this country that you can’t really go wrong, particularly at the big meetings during the Carnival.

Let’s get through the numbers. The numerically ordered numbers on the left are just the horse’s race number. These don’t really mean anything until you go to place a bet as this is the number you give to the attendant to identify your horse!

The next four numbers are important and worth keeping in mind. These are the horse’s last four starts, or races that they have run in. If you see numbers ranging from 1 to 6, this means they’re run well recently and usually finished in the first half of the field. Sporting a 0 can be a worry. If there are too many of these zeros, coupled with a few 9s, this probably indicates the horse hasn’t been in the best form of late. It could be a sign to maybe give that horse a miss.

The number in the brackets to the right of the horse’s name is the barrier it will jump from. Now depending on the track, and the length of the race, these can be important! A lower numbered barrier means the horse will jump from closer to the inside of the track. This, theoretically, means they will run the shortest way home, which is a good thing!

The next numbers to consider are those to the right of the trainer’s name. This is the weight the horse will have to carry with their jockey. Depending on the type of race, a higher weight could mean an older horse (in ‘Weight for Age’ races like the Cox Plate), the horse is a boy (for the Derby or Guineas) or the horse has been pretty successful and consequently, been penalised with a higher weight to even out the field. Don’t worry too much about this number, though if it’s over 60kg, I’d miss it, unless the horse is superior to the rest!

The next is their ‘Techform’ rating. Horses are rated and ranked on their past performances and given a number. These change with every win they have. The higher the number, the better the horse!

Finally, the number with the dollar sign, is of course a rough guide as to the price a horse will pay if it wins. The lower the figure, the more people who have punted on (or are likely to punt on) that horse. Which lends to the idea that they are more fancied and maybe a better chance! If you’re going to have a small wager, I’d suggest going something with a starting price of $7 or $8 and backing it ‘each way’.

I could literally go on and on about how to read a form guide and how to pick a winner, but sometimes a gut feel helps as well. If you have a feeling about a certain name, jockey, or trainer, then just do it! Sometimes, even after digesting so much information, I’ll get a hunch that someone is in for a big day, especially if they’ve already had a few winners earlier in the program.

It’s definitely a complicated process, but having a little bit of knowledge will certainly improve your day if you’re going to have a bet. Of course, remember to always bet with your head and not over it, and always gamble responsibly.