I have often been asked, "If there is one piece of advice you can give to help me find a winner, what would it be?"

My answer? Ignore the betting forecast in the daily's or the racing press - after, of course, you have subscribed to TowerForm Ratings.

To get a grip on how the newspapers and the racing press compile their forecasts just go to the overnight declarations Weatherby's send out HERE. The last column has the overnight forecast SP. The resultant forecast you see in the racing press is a compilers adjustment based on what he knows. Many daily's simply transpose these prices onto their racecards.

I am not belittling the forecast compilers, I am simply saying that if you read the form book with an eye on the betting forecast, you are likely to be influenced in your thoughts. You might think, "Oh, that's got a chance," then glance at the betting forecast and think, "Mmm." If so, you've been influenced already.

But to a small example:

Last week two horses, A and B, met on level weights in a handicap. Horse A beat horse B by half a length. Today they meet again on the same track, over the same distance, on the same going, and the draw is similar for both horses. Horse B is now three pounds better off with horse A for that half length beating. In the form book you discover that horse B was slightly blocked in his run and finished fast, closing on the winner near the line. Also, the betting forecast has horse B at 6/4 and horse A at 11/4. As Aleksandr the meerkat says, "Simples! Tch!"

If only....

Looking at the form book and glancing at the betting forecast would cause you to think horse B will reverse form with horse A. So you decide to back horse B. The race comes round and you are left cursing the form book because horse A not only confirms the form, it extends the winning margin. You throw away the form book, run your finger blindly up and down the next day's racecard and say to the wife, "Tell me when to stop."

What you had done was be influenced by the market to the degree that you stopped reading form. When reading collateral form like that I ask myself a number of questions, including such as:

          1. How was the race run.
          2. Was there any pace in the race.
          3. What is the overall style of running horse A and B have.
          4. Was horse A or horse B fitter from previous runs.

They are only basic questions and you can probably think of more. But they are an important start.

What if you had ignored the betting forecast? Well, you would probably have read a little more form and discovered that horse A was making its seasonal debut when it won and would therefore be fitter today; or, horse A idles when it hits the front; or, horse B regularly makes its own trouble and finishes well but doesn't win; or horse B always runs like it will win but when asked for the final effort to pass a horse it shirks. In such scenarios, horse A will always win in my estimation. But if I halted my form reading because I was distracted by the betting forecast, I would back horse B.

But forecast monitoring is not only restricted to such as the above example. I always hear people say about National Hunt winners, "How can that win. It pulled up last time behind today's favourite." Well, if we all thought that way we'd never back a winner - especially over the jumps. We all know that every horse can be excused a bad run, and on the NH it can be excused two or more.

On the Flat it is straightforward. It either had an off day or the going went against it, et al. Over the jumps, it may not be so straightforward. Try jumping over a small bush and scraping it with your leg, or even knocking it on one of the bush's twigs and you'll begin to get my drift. Horses jumping fences can knock, scrape, cut or bruise limbs, overstretch, or get winded simply by jumping a fence. All it takes is one slight mistake or another horse crowding it or bumping it as it jumps, and its race can be over.

So, don't automatically assume a horse that pulls up maybe twice on the trot is useless and not worth considering. I have many times handicapped a horse to be top rated after it has pulled up twice. Kempski is an example (Spring 2009) He had pulled up four times in his previous six starts (including his last two runs) when I clear top rated him. He won by half a length at 9/2 in a five runner field. So don't immediately discard horses with the form figures "P or PP" by their names. You'll be missing winners regularly.