The Truth About Newspaper & Formguide Tips

Brisbane Cup 14 Dec 2006If you’ve ever wondered if the tips in a racebook or formguide are worth much more than a passing glance, the following may just open your eyes a little.

From the late 1980s to the late 1990s I freelanced at different times for DeFax Sporting Publications in Sydney. At that time DeFax was supplying formguides to almost every greyhound track in NSW, with something like 40 meetings being put together each week.

In those days, despite computers and data processing, the Internet either didn’t exist or, when it finally did, was still very much in its infancy, nothing like the behemoth it is today. With each state running its own database of form, and all in differing styles, it was the fax machine upon which much reliance was placed.

For example, when a Victorian greyhound was engaged at a NSW track, we would contact National Greyhound Form and ask them to send a fax of the relevant dogs’ form. This would then be added to the NSW database, although usually just the number of starts and placings and the last six or so races in a bit more detail.

The bottom line was the work of checking each racebook was time intensive and to supply tips for tracks like Cootamundra, Dubbo, Broken Hill and the rest meant that in most cases the selections were made at about 30 seconds per race.

I often wondered if the locals who used DeFax took any notice of the selections, because if they were of the belief the picks were the result of lengthy and informed form study they were sadly mistaken.

The only tracks where more effort was put into the picks were the TAB circuits like Gosford, Dapto, Bulli, Richmond and the like.

Also, a lot more effort was put into the selections for the Wentworth Park Saturday and Monday meetings, where I would go upstairs to the GBOTA office and watch the video replays of the previous couple of meetings.

For me, being a regular at the city meetings meant I knew most of the runners and had a pretty good idea of assessing most races. Even so, the selection process for both meetings had to be completed by the previous Thursday.

The DeFax tips for Saturday night were sent to the Daily Telegraph and appear in the Tipster Poll at the top of the Wentworth Park formguide. I wasn’t any better or worse than most; the best I ever managed being seven winners on top, out of 10 races.

Major race finals were, quite often, some of the easiest to assess, and in this regard one race sticks out in my mind, the 1999 National Derby final at Wentworth Park.

After the run-offs the race looked as good as over with Queensland star Faithful Hawk drawn well in box seven. He had the early speed, sectional times, and overall run home times to be the deserved favourite. However, when watching the video replays I noticed the dog drawn in box six for the final was a good beginner who veered slightly right at the start. Faithful Hawk jumped to the left, and I thought it would only take a brief 2/100ths of a second ‘prop’ by Faithful Hawk at the start to let the only other chance in the race, Hahn Bale (box four), steal enough of a break to lead into the first turn and take the race. I wrote as much in the DeFax preview and put my money where my mouth was on race night, taking the 5/2 ($3.50) about Hahn Bale.

As the bunny rolled for the start of the Derby final my eyes were glued to the six alley, and, sure enough, it popped out quickly and went slightly right, holding up Faithful Hawk for that vital moment. Hahn Bale began well from box four and led narrowly into the first bend from Faithful Hawk before going on to score by almost five lengths in race record time.

As readers of this website are well aware, the videos of heats and semi-finals are available almost as soon as they are run and can be watched over and over again from the comfort of your own chair. When the field for a final is completed and the box draw done, it is well worth having a look at the heats and noting the way each of the eight finalists begins from the boxes and the line they take in the early part of a race.

The moral of this story is quite simple: make your own judgement and ignore the tipsters. You’ll find, over time, your selection processes are just as good, if not better, than many of the so-called ‘experts’.

This story first appeared here:


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