If someone asked you about a particular dog's speed effectiveness for a certain race, how would you answer the question? Firstly, you would think about it. Of course you would.

You would look at the dog's times from its previous races, especially those held at the track where it is now about to race. How fast did it run? How fast did the dogs run that beat it home? What time is it likely to run in the current race, given what it has achieved speed-wise in the past?

A dog's speed effectiveness will vary in relation to (a) the dogs it is racing against and (b) its own level of fitness and improvement. While he may be able to run a certain time against inferior dogs he will find it much harder in higher quality company.

This is because better dogs will probably possess faster early speed. The dog could lead inferior dogs to the first turn, but stepped up in class he finds he can't do that. As a result he gets caught up in the backwash. The dogs around him are travelling a length or two faster than the dogs he has met before.

So when you analyse times, always keep in mind the associated aspect of class. If a dog wins a Maiden in, say, 29.65s, he may have to improve 2 or 3 lengths (about 19/100ths of a second) to be competitive in a higher grade.

I pose the question about speed competitiveness because it is one always confronting greyhound bettors. You can't really think seriously about dog racing unless you examine speed.

One way, of course, is to 'average' a dog's speed over a number of races at the same track. If you are looking at a dog racing at Sandown in Melbourne, you might be able to go back 5 or 6 races. Eliminate any in which the dog suffered severe interference. With the rest, add up the times and then divide that total by the number of starts you have chosen.

When allowing for 'lengths beaten' the time is usually estimated at 0.063s per length. So if a dog was beaten 6.5 lengths, you would add 6.5x0.063 to the time run by the winner. If the winner ran, say, 29.80s, then the dog beaten 6.5 lengths would have a time of 30.20.

A dog with the times 29.85, 30. 10, 30.00, 29.87 and 30.20 at its last five starts would have an average time for the distance of 30.00s. Do this with every runner and you will have a good idea of the speed effectiveness of each. You know their average, their worst and their best.

If a greyhound fan fails to come to terms with speed and times, then he is doing himself a disservice. And by this I don't just mean looking at one single time. That tells you little.

Newspaper formguides, because of lack of space, print only one time next to a dog's name. This is usually its best winning time at the distance. But that time may well have been recorded 12 months before. It means little today.
The dog may also have run faster when beaten in a race. So this tells you that a serious formguide is required; one that explains facets of a dog's run (did it lead, was it checked, did it run on, etc.), and its speed performances.

ANGLE NO. 1
Track performances are always a sensible guide to the greyhounds. One plan is to look at each runner's form and eliminate any dog which hasn't raced at the current track. Then tick off those dogs which have won at the track (in real races, not just qualifying trials).

You then examine the recent form of each of these dogs with wins at the track. Throw out any which are at 6 / 1 or longer in the pre-race betting.

Of those remaining, check the last-start performance. If it wasn't at the track, then eliminate it.

If there is still more than one contender left, choose the dog with the best draw. In this instance, I simply suggest you start from the box which shows the highest number of wins at the track (usually Box 1). If no dog in that box, look for a contender in the next best box, and so on.

Without the opportunity of casting back through a dog's last six to 10 starts, you may as well be sticking a pin in the page. Of course, I know, and you know, that such probing form analysis is not always possible, due to a diversity of reasons.

This is why in the pages of PPM I try to help you capitalise on the new strands of form detail available in daily newspapers, or guides like Tabform. The best guides are the Greyhound Recorder in Sydney and the Gold Guides for the various tracks in Victoria.

A plan that I devised some years ago remains relevant today. It consists of tying together various elements of form to determine the strength of a greyhound's prospects for a race. It is a fine general guide to form analysis.

The rules are as follows:

GEORGE'S NO-BONES PLAN

1. Add up the total finishing positions for the dog's last five races (i.e. 2-4-5-7-6).
2. Note down the dog's BEST finish position in its last five races (in the example in Rule 1 it would be 2nd).
3. Note the dog's last-start race time. If it was beaten, work out its time as I outlined earlier.
4. Note the dog's best time of its last three starts.
5. Note the dog's assigned box draw for the current race.
6. Note the dog's position at the first turn at its last three starts.

In regard to factors three and four, you need to consider the dog's performances at the track at which it is now to race. If the dog has no runs at the track, then ignore it altogether.

Let's look at an example dog:

SWEET FIDO
Last five starts: 2-4-5-7-6 totals 24.
Best of last five starts: 2.
Dog's last-start time: 29.86.
Dog's best time of last three starts: 29.77s.
Dog's box draw this race: 1.
Dog's first turn positions last 3 starts: 2-2-2.

All you do now is add them up. In this instance, the total is 92.63.

You do the same calculations for the other runners and the dog with the LOWEST points is the selection.

This plan works best when you select dogs which mostly race at the same track. If you find a race in which three or more of the runners haven't raced at the track, then I suggest you ignore the race.

Angles, Angles …DECEDING THE BEST
It's hard to believe that someone could come up with a set of pertinent questions about the dogs which could so accurately cut right to the bones of what it's all about. But that's what my colleague Brian Blackwell has done with his new DecisionPro-G computer handicapping software. Now, by this time, you will all have learned that this programme is part of the Classic 7 software package.

Much attention has been focused on the gallops programmes, including DecisionPro for horse-racing, but this is the first time we have spoken about the greyhounds version.

I have to confess that I did give Brian my views when he developed the DecisionPro-G programme but I was still wonderfully surprised when I saw the finished version. It is so cleanly put together, so far as an overview of a race is concerned, that I started to wonder why I hadn't thought of such a logical approach before!

There are nine aspects to the DecisionPro-G handicapping approach. Now, what has to be made clear is that this is not a mechanical system. It is a programme that allows you to become the driving force behind all the selections. Everything depends on your decisions.

In short, you are asked to analyse nine aspects of form for each dog. There are no ready answers; you have to think about each one and give your assessment.

For example: One of the questions will tax you but it does play a vital role in deciding which dog can win a race. The question is this:

* Where do you expect the dog to be positioned at the half-way mark?

The programme allows you four choices - 1st / 2nd or 3rd / 4th or 5th / 6th or worse. As you will realise, this is a very crucial question. You have to look at each dog closely to come up with an answer.

Having some sort of answer to this question is really what any dog handicapper should try to provide for himself anyway. If you think a dog is going to be 6th, 7th or 8th at the half-way mark, well, think about it! Can it win?

Decision Pro-G takes this key factor into consideration and weighs it up against all the other inputs you make about each dog's form. Once the computer has done this (in the flash of an eye!) it comes up with an estimated true price for each runner.

Let me tell you, I surprised myself quite a few times when I first used the method because I found I had selected dogs I wouldn't have selected going about things normally! But there was no 'lie' about the computer's assessment of what I had put in. They were the dogs my inputs had chosen!

By George 'Barker' Bellfield

PRACTICAL PUNTING - OCTOBER 1997