Understand greyhound form-and the world's your oyster. Well, so they say. But I do admit there's more than a hint of truth in the phrase.

Too many punters back greyhounds on the strength of seeing their names in a field of runners. Few bother to look at or analyse the dog's form.

For the examples in this article, I am using Peter Pearson's excellent Cold Greyhound Form Guide, the major form publication for Victorian tracks. It is the ideal guide for coming to grips with what dog racing form is all about.

In the Cold Guide, a line of form might appear as follows:

4th (5) 31.8 Ben 700 April 6 9L Beat Girl 41.98 Bx S/C/C/6/2/2/4- 7/1.

Now, to someone just starting out in greyhound betting, this may well appear an awesome fine of print. But it's simple to deduce what it all means-the greyhound ran 4th from Box 5 and his racing weight was 31.8 kgs. He raced at Bendigo over 700m on April 6 and was beaten by nine lengths, the winner being Beat Girl who clocked 41.98, equal best time of the night (you know its equal best time because of the little 'x' that appears next to the B for Best). The next notation tells you that the dog was slowly away(S), then was checked twice (C/C), settled 6th (6), moved up 2nd (2/2) and eventually finished 4th. Its starting price was 7-1.

This dog ran fairly then. It had to overcome a slow start and two checks but still managed to reach 2nd place in the latter stages before apparently weakening to finish 4th.

You then have to look at each greyhound's last start form and try to piece together (a) why it lost last start or (b) why it won or was placed last start and (c) what it is likely to do in its current race, given the facts of its previous performance and any change in box draw.

Each dog must be measured against the other. You must take into account the selections of newspaper experts, and particularly the selections handed out in the formguide itself.

Let's look at another line of form:
6th (8) 28.0 Sand 511 March 5 12L S.
Chariot 30.90-B30.39 XTR/ C/C/ 6C Hit rail/7/7/6-33-1.

We can easily tell from the run-of-race line that this greyhound suffered severe interference. It crossed to the rail at the start from its wide draw (Box 8) but suffered two early checks. It was then placed 6th and was checked again and actually hit the rail. It then was in 7th place and wound up 6th, a long way from the winner.

You might think the dog would be a good bet next time out-not so. Dogs who find trouble seem to do it all the time. And quite often when they miss trouble they are disappointing. At its next start, this particular greyhound had every chance but weakened from 2nd position early to finish 8th, 24 lengths from the winner.

Often, however, bad luck in running will lead you to future winners. This is especially so when a dog is heavily supported and runs into severe interference and so loses. At its next start, this dog should be very closely watched. If it is drawn the same or better, and is still well fancied, it could be on the cards for a drastic improvement on its last start defeat.

An example is Olympic Shroud. It had the following run-of-race report after finishing 6th at Olympic ParkS/7C/7/C/7C/6. This indicates clearly that it was slowly away (from Box 3) and was back in 7th place at the first turn, where it was checked. It later suffered another two checks.

At its next start, Olympic Shroud got a better box (2) at Ballarat and was able to come from 4th early to win at 8-1.

So when you get around to analysing form, take serious account of how much strife a dog ran into, but also check to determine if it does this all the time. Some dogs lack track sense and blunder into interference in the majority of their races. Other dogs strike severe interference only occasionally. Many use their early pace to lead and so avoid any checks when the dogs bunch on the turns.

Box draw is vitally important at the dogs. Dogs can improve sharply merely because they are better suited in a particular box. A dog which likes to rail might be drawn in 5, 6 or 7 several times in a row and as a consequence strikes trouble and fails.

Then he secures the red box (1) and this is 100 per cent in his favor. He can win from the rails box because this is his natural tendency.

Example: Belleaton Lass ran 3rd from Box 5 at Olympic Park on February 9 but ten days later was entered in a similar race at Sandown and drew Box 1. She railed from 3rd spot early to win at 6-1.

Example: Mr Nitro finished 5th from Box 7 at Traralgon 730m on March 26 but a week later drew Box 2 at Sandown over 716m and won easily at 5-2, railing perfectly all the way.

Conversely, a bad box draw may follow a good box draw and thus spoil any prospects of a dog repeating a win or a good run.

Example: Street Kid drew Box 1 over the Cranbourne 520m trip and won at 7-4. Five days later it drew Box 5 at Sandown and struck three early checks before finishing 6th.

Example: Ruff Cutt came from Box 2 to win at Ballarat 450m on December 3, but then drew Box 7 in a similar strength field at Warragul 424m. It was checked at the first turn and finished 3rd.

The lessons to be learned, then: Study form and weight up everything that has happened-then try to work out what is going to happen. It's tough, but it’s fun.


By George ‘Barker’ Bellfield