Pender Noriega is regarded as America's foremost authority on greyhound racing. He has followed the sport for 40 years and has written five books about all aspects of selection and betting. The following article, the first in a series, is extracted from his bestselling books A Complete Guide For Greyhound Handicapping and Professional Guide to Handicapping Greyhound Races.

If you want to become a professional handicapper at the sport of greyhound racing you will need to develop a system of handicapping that will look at every race as a unique situation.

You must have an idea as to how effective you are at handicapping races. You may continue to blame losing on bad luck, when it may be bad handicapping. Also, some people are better at handicapping for different bets.

The only way to find out where your strengths are will be through practising with old programmes. As a minimum you should be able to select a greyhound that will finish in the money 60 per cent of the time. If you can't do this, you need to re-read some of your old material on handicapping procedures.

If you CAN select a greyhound that will be in the money at least 60 per cent of the time, you can then move on to see how effective you are in selecting quinellas and trifectas. Once you can see where your strengths lie, you can then devise bets to match your strengths.

One of the most difficult tasks in handicapping is in trying to determine which greyhounds to eliminate from consideration. First of all, you need to understand that because of the grading system used in greyhound racing, every greyhound in a race actually has a chance of winning.

Every race is "situational" because of the different abilities of the greyhounds and their different running styles. A greyhound can be the highest class in one field and the lowest class in another.

When you are looking for greyhounds to eliminate you are trying to determine which have a disadvantage because of the makeup of the race you are handicapping. The best dog in the race may not finish in the money because of having such an extreme post disadvantage that he could not find the running "room" quickly enough to get in to the flow of the race.

Class would be the first attribute of a greyhound that you would want to evaluate. You would consider eliminating one or two dogs with the lowest class.

The first dog to consider for elimination is one that has just won in a lower grade and is moving up in grade. If the times that the dog ran in his last two or three races were not superior compared to his rivals in the current race, then the dog may have trouble competing at this level.

Greyhounds that are lowered in class can have slower times than the rest of the field for their last couple of races. But dogs that are moving UP in class must have superior times.

The next greyhound to consider for elimination would be one that has recently moved up in grade. If a dog is going to be competitive at a new grade he will usually finish 4th or better at his first time out in the higher class.

Other elimination factors:
(a) The greyhound with the worst form record.
(b) The greyhound with the slowest average speed.
(c) The greyhound with the least amount of class and early speed which is in Box 4 or 6.

The overall rules for looking at eliminating greyhounds from contention:

  1. Do not eliminate a greyhound that in its last race was able to win by 5 lengths or more, or passed two or more greyhounds in the final stretch.
  2. Never eliminate a greyhound that has the average fastest time.
  3. Never eliminate the greyhound that ran the fastest time the last time out and is running in the same grade.
  4. Never eliminate a rails runner that's in Box 1 if he has late speed.
  5. Only eliminate the greyhound in Box 1 as a last resort.
  6. Do not use a greyhound as a "banker" that is in a box immediately to the left of a rails "slasher".

When it comes to betting on dog races there are a few things that must be said upfront. Greyhound races are extremely unpredictable. For every race that you feel you can predict the outcome, there are usually 10 more that you will not.

You will hear all the stories about how fans are making money at the track but there are very few who'll make money in the long run. Because of the takeout, the parity of races, and along with the many mishaps that can occur, it is almost impossible to generate a profit.

Over 95 per cent of the fans who back greyhounds lose money. In fact, only 1 or 2 per cent will ever generate a long-term profit. Most fans don't have the patience it takes.

The most cost-effective bet is still to bet to win. If you can hit about four winning tickets on a 12-race programme, you are apt to break even or generate a profit. If you can't do this, can you imagine that you can hit trifectas and exactas?

If you are making only basic $2 and $3 bets when you play the exotics, you MAY be able to net a profit, but most fans will use several combinations of boxes and "wheels" (bankers) in an attempt to hit those bets.

As a professional handicapper, you have to decide whether you will be realistic and try to generate a profit, or continue to fool yourself into thinking that because there are only eight dogs in a race you should be able to "buy" yourself a winning ticket.

There may be a punter out there, somewhere, who can generate a profit by playing bankers, combinations, boxes and so on, but if you get them to be honest with you, you'll find it's not true.

My approach regarding win bets is this: It's far easier to hit 1 out of 8 than 2 out of 8 or 3 out of 8. The key is to always shop for value and to improve your handicapping.

Take time away from the track to sit down and evaluate 300 to 400 races. With a computer you can process all these results very quickly. This will allow you to compare your handicapping techniques. Be honest with yourself.

By spending one afternoon at home you can save yourself a lot of money and devise some strategies to make money. If you can hit a win ticket and make 50 cents on the dollar, just think of how many businesses do NOT make 50 cents on the dollar.

I hope that over the years that I've been able to convince my followers that ANY greyhound in a field of 8 can win  the race. The greyhound that has the least chance of winning is the one with the average slowest time in the race. The slowest greyhound is at an obvious disadvantage.

However, in more than 90 per cent of all races, the difference between the two or three fastest dogs and the slowest is not that significant. Therefore, if the slowest greyhound is given a post position advantage its chances of winning can far exceed those of the fastest greyhound in the race.

For this reason, races become more about advantages and disadvantages than they pertain to class, speed or record.

All things being equal, the fastest dog should win. The fastest dog is usually the class greyhound that's been lowered in grade. This is because at some point in time this dog has probably been able to run a time fast enough to win at the grade, or the race currently being handicapped.

Why, then, doesn't the fastest greyhound in a race win at least 50 per cent of the time? Even if the fastest dog is moving up in grade or being lowered in grade, shouldn't the fastest greyhound be able to win most of the time?

After all, it is a race, isn't it? The majority of the time some other greyhound either gets a box position advantage or the fastest dog gets a box disadvantage. This is because the races are so mechanical.

You have two choices: You can either try to benefit from the mechanics or you can consistently bet the strength of class, speed and form record. If you stay with the major attributes of class, speed and form record you will consistently hit less than 40 per cent of your bets and when you do hit, the payoffs will be so small you will not be able to recover your losses.

If you insist on betting trifectas, then have a look at this checklist:

  1. You should never play any race in which the dog in Box 1 is a mid-track or wide runner. This greyhound can destroy a race.
  2. You should never play a race in which the greyhound in Box 8 is a rails runner with early speed. This dog will either make it across the pack and win, or he will not make it but will distort the race in the process.
  3. You should not play a race if you have to use dogs from Box 3, 4, 5 or 6 as a "banker" unless the 3, 4 or 5 is a mid-track runner with extreme early speed and you are using that dog as the banker.
  4. Do not use a dog as a banker unless it is one of the two class dogs in the race.
  5. You should never make a banker of a back runner unless he's a rails runner in Box 1 or a wide runner in Box 8.
  6. You should not play a trifecta unless the following grey-hounds are included in your bet:
    (a) One of the two class greyhounds.
    (b) The average fastest dog.
    (c) The greyhound with the fastest evaluated time.
    (d) The best break dog (fastest from the box) in the race.
    (e) Any late back runner.
  7. If the dog in Box 6 is a wide runner and has extreme early speed, you should not play Box 7 or 8.
  8. If the greyhound in Box 2 is an early pacer and a wide runner, you must play Boxes 1 and 2.
  9. The best bet to win is the one of the two highest class dogs that is in the top 3 for average speed or evaluated time.

There are some positive variables that you might like to look for when considering races and they are as follows:

  1. The back rails runner in Box 1.
  2. The mid-track or wide runner from Box 8.
  3. Races that contain less than four dogs that have run at a higher grade in their last six races.
  4. Races which have not more than three dogs that finished in the money in the same grade last time out.
  5. Races with only one front runner.
  6. Races where the runner in Box 2 or 3 is a wide runner.
  7. Races where a front runner is being lowered in grade.

It is important always to understand that greyhound races are mechanical, and short races are extremely mechanical. But the mechanics of box position can totally change the outcome of any race.

In what we Americans call 5/16ths races (500m), you must take into consideration the degree of mechanics. How these factors will weigh against the importance of the strongest correlations will, to a great extent, depend upon how capable a greyhound is in reaching the 200m mark (the 1/8th call), its advantage and how much stamina the dog may have in retaining that advantage.

• In next month's article, Pender Noriega discusses in depth the advantages and disadvantages of box positions, and explains how to develop advantages by studying box positions.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

By Pender Noriega