Do you suffer from the 'dog box blues'? Those nights when you reckon that the usual pattern of box behaviour has gone completely awry? Those nights, or afternoons, when dogs you expect to win from the red box end up running last?

I've had them, and I've no doubt I'll experience many more. It's a fact of betting life on the greyhounds that you'll be absolutely stumped at least several times a meeting by things happening that you least expect to happen.

But those setbacks should never stop you from making a fine art of studying the impact of the box draw on the outcome of a dog race. It can be vitally important to ensure that your selection has a good draw. A poor draw can mean the difference between winning and losing, often by a large margin.

Recently, I've been looking at some of the greyhound racing books and magazines I've accumulated over the years and decided I would ferret out some of the more pertinent comments on the box draw. These are the views of some of the world's most authoritative greyhound racing commentators.

H. Edwards Clarke, author of Win At Greyhound Racing (Oldcastle Books, England) writes mainly about UK racing, which provides for only 6 dogs per race, but his general comments about the box draw are valuable for any dog fan.

Clarke says: "It would be … foolish to claim that a dog's trap (box) was never a material factor in the result of a race. The nub of the issue, the importance or otherwise of a dog's trap, depends entirely on the caliber, characteristics and style of running of the dog itself.

"For instance, it seems natural to conclude that the dog occupying trap I (or those in both 1 and 2) has an obvious advantage because it is nearest to the rail and, therefore, best placed for the shortest route home. But what if the dog in trap 1 is a slow starter? It may well be running close to the rail but this will be of little advantage with the backsides of three or four dogs obstructing its passage round the first bend.

"What, too, if No 1 does happen to be a fast starter but is also the type that without being a wide runner nevertheless moves off the rails at the first bend? In all probability, if either 2 or 3 are railers, they are going to bump it out of contention when it swings out.

"In such circumstances, occupied by a dog with such a running style, traps I and 2 would be the reverse of an advantage."

Clarke says he would be the last to claim that trap draw has no significance - but he believes other factors are far more important.

Ross Hamilton is an American from St Louis and the author of Greyhound Betting For Profit (GBC Press, Las Vegas). Hamilton writes: "In actual race situations, the problem (of how a race is run) is compounded by the post position each dog happens to draw.

"Most greyhounds prefer the inside 1 and 2 boxes, which are obviously close to the rail. If they can clear the first turn, they are often home free. However, if there is an outside dog (called a 'slasher') with an unusual amount of early foot, he can and usually does wreak havoc in a race by cutting across the path of the inside dogs and eliminating them from further serious consideration.

"What can be even more confusing are greyhounds which draw inside boxes and show a habit of running wide on straights. These pups going against the flow of traffic, trying to get outside where there is more running room, can cause the handicapper fits, by creating bumps and spills.

"This is one reason a bettor should do his homework in advance of arriving at the track."

William E. McBride, author of The Gambling Times Guide To Greyhound Racing (Gambling Times, Hollywood, California) has some good points to make as well about the subject of the box draw. He writes: "Do not ... make a premature modification based on a certain box becoming hot or cold for two or three nights running. This happens now and then and it would be a great factor to use if you could tell how long it was going to last.

"Don't, then, be too quick to change your formula (system) to accommodate, for example, a short-term hot- box streak."

What McBride is saying is that every box draw is going to suffer losing runs and winning runs of varying length. It is possible that some boxes will go 50 or 60 races without releasing a winner at certain tracks. I've seen it happen.

So you have to be very careful in this respect. At other times, a box will, as McBride says, run hot with winners. It can dry up just as quickly!

McBride's suggestion is that you concentrate on the various 'grades' of races at your local track and determine which box numbers fare best in each 'grade'. He adds: "If you can determine that there are a few grades at your track in which 3 boxes are quite a bit warmer than the other 5, you could experiment with a system in which you simply box these 3 hot-box positions with the crowd's favourite selection for a 4-dog box trifecta. "

Those are ideas and suggestions from three international greyhound handicappers. I'll bring you more ideas from around the world in future issues of PPM.

By George 'Barker' Bellfield