As any regular racegoer will tell you, an essential part of the racegoing experience is assessing the well being of your selection in the parade ring before parting with any of your hard earned cash.

What do you look for though?  It's all very well these paddock experts on the television using expressions like "a scopey sort" and "carrying plenty of condition", but to the average racegoer all horses look more or less the b****y same.  However, as Ivor Donkey is an above average racegoer (in the sense that I lose more money than most other people), I shall endeavour to guide you through the parade ring pitfalls.

Firstly, avoid any horse that is walking round the parade ring with his undercarriage down, to put it politely.  Or to put it impolitely, avoid any horse that is walking round with his hampton swinging around underneath him, or worse still, sticking out like a fifth leg.  Despite the fact that female racegoers tend to find this impressive, it doesn't take a genius to work out that for the horse to maintain this state of affairs involves a good deal of energy expenditure, and the energy that he uses in the parade ring is energy that he won't be able to use during the race.  Obviously this only applies to colts, as fillies lack any tell tale appendages, it is therefore less obvious when they are getting a bit excited.

Right, once you've checked on the state of your selection's wedding tackle, what else do you look for?
Well, for a start, check for any obvious signs of lack of fitness, such as a pronounced limp, a wooden leg, a large belly, or if the simple act of walking round the parade ring is making him breathe heavily and/or cough.  Horses exhibiting any or all of these things are best avoided (unless you're the boss of a glue factory of course).

Another thing to look out for is if your chosen horse is sweating or not, this can be excused if it is a hot day, but if it is fairly cool then there must be another reason for it.  He/she may be a nervous or excitable type who gets a bit worked up, or in the case of colts, he may have his undercarriage down (see above).
Some horses always sweat regardless of weather or mood, and it doesn't affect their performance, but if your horse is sweating profusely when normally it doesn't, then it may not be a good idea to back it.

Next you need to have a look at your horse's ribs, if you can see them showing through, that is supposed to indicate that the horse is fit.  To me it just looks as though the sadistic b******s haven't been feeding it properly.  Since when has being skinny been an indicator of good health?  Some of them look so thin that they'll break in half as soon as the jockey gets on them.  On the whole, just avoid the horses with large pendulous bellies that threaten to drag along the ground.

As well as all of the above, you also need to check on the condition of the horse's coat.  If it walks into the paddock looking like a hairy yak it is said that it should be avoided.  Television "experts" describe this by saying that the horse has "gone in it's coat".  I don't have a clue what that means, but the bottom line is that you should concentrate on the ones with pretty patterns shaved into their backsides.

Look at it from the horse's point of view though, they grow a longer coat because they need protection from the cooler weather.  So how would you like it if some idiot decided to shave your a**e and make a chessboard pattern on it and let you freeze your unmentionables off?  I know I wouldn't.  Besides, length of hair makes absolutely no difference to athletic performance.  I know this to be true because I am a keen cyclist, and I sometimes don't get around to having a haircut as often as I should, and as a result it gets a bit shaggy, but it makes absolutely no difference to my performance on the bike.  So if it makes no difference to me, why should it make any difference to a horse?

It seems to me that this whole paddock inspection thing is just an excuse to discriminate against fat, hairy horses.  If all horses start thinking that they have to be unfeasibly skinny then it could lead to them not eating their oats and developing horsy anorexia.  It's the same with women, they get told by television and magazines that they have to look like these skinny supermodels, but let's be honest, curvaceous women look much better than those stick insects don't they?

The best system is to ignore girth size, hairiness or sweatiness and just back the one that you most like the look of for whatever reason, after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder isn't it?