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Trying to select the winner of a horse race has many parallels to detectives trying to solve a crime. So, who better to glean some hints from, than the master detective himself, Sherlock Holmes.

The first place to start is the crime scene, which for us is the form book. It is here, where we find our basic evidence and can start looking for clues. We discover the races that the horses have run in, where they finished, at which track, on what ground, the weight carried, who the jockey was and various other clues.

It is at this juncture we need to employ one of Sherlock Holmes’ pearls of wisdom: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”, or in our case the winner. Using this approach, we can probably rule out some of the suspects/horses.

So, we have whittled down the field, but what next?

After visiting the crime scene for our basic clues, we now need to heed Holmes’ next piece of advice: “Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore, it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell”. This means putting the form book down and looking for clues elsewhere, applying logic.

As an example, we should take notice when a trainer sends just one runner to a racecourse several hundred miles away to a track where he rarely sends runners but has a high strike rate. Top jockeys riding for little known trainers is another clue that merits closer inspection with our magnifying glass.

The local police force would often be stumped by a crime that Sherlock Holmes would end up solving. In racing, the equivalent is the racecourse stewards who often hold an enquiry into either the poor running or the improved form shown by a racehorse.

We need to be like Sherlock Holmes and delve a bit deeper into those enquiries. For instance, a horse that was beaten a long way with the excuse that the horse hated the course or ground should be noted when racing elsewhere or on different ground.

Holmes also gives us advice when watching a race. “You see, but you do not observe”. Most people when watching a race tend only to focus on the horse that they have backed. Try watching more runners, particularly horses at the back of the field, noting whether they get a clear run or not. These clues can be invaluable when looking for the winner of future races.

Finally, nothing can beat a day at the races when looking for winners. Holmes said, “There is nothing like first-hand evidence”, and the racecourse is the ideal place to do this.

You can look at the horses in the parade ring and watch them going down to the start. One of my favourite clues is to look and see if the trainer and owners are in attendance, which often suggests that a good run is expected.

I hope that this brief guide will be of some assistance to you in finding winners. It is, after all, elementary my dear reader!

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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