It’s a pleasure to take over from George Bellfield as the greyhound writer for PPM. I doubt I will be as prolific as George was in his 20 years but I will do my best to bring you some helpful information.

There is, as we well know, no guaranteed way of finding winners and for a newcomer to greyhound racing the task must seem quite daunting, especially when the form is revealed with all its odds patterns and factors.

Eight greyhounds may all seem the same to the novice but there are numerous key factors to take into consideration when trying to determine which dogs might fight out the finish.

The following is not a formula for quick fix but it should be a helpful guide for the novice punter and even the more experienced punter who may perhaps have fallen into bad habits and feels the need for a fresh look at what makes the game tick.

The only way we can realistically hope to emerge with a profit at the end of a specified period is to study each and every greyhound’s form in any given race. No getting away from it, I’m afraid. Betting by box numbers, colours, newspaper tips, a friend’s tip and so on, will not work in the long term.

There are five major points on which to structure any selection approach. These are class, current form, early speed, box draw and, above all, value for money.

The following will guide you through each of the factors. Take a bit of time to digest the details and then have a go at doing the form yourself. Once you have practised the formula you should be on the way to being a winning punter or, at least, a punter who doesn’t leave the mortgage money behind every time you have a bet at the TAB, at the track or from home.

One important thing to remember is that greyhounds are not machines. Like humans, they can have occasional bad days. There are myriad reasons why. It could be to do with their handlers who may have been “lazy” during the week and not given them enough work, or perhaps not fed them properly (perhaps overfed them?). A dog could have just an off-colour day.

Some are more consistent than others, though, and you quickly learn which greyhounds and what types of races you are most likely to profit from in the long term.

When a young greyhound embarks upon its racing career, it must undergo a series of time trials to assess its ability as a racer. These trials, many in private, will quickly tell a trainer whether the dog is country or city class. This is all generally based on the best time the dog achieves in trials.

As its racing career proceeds, the dog will show, by way of its performances, how good it is under competitive stress. It will show whether it has early speed, whether it’s a fast breaker from the boxes (these are the dogs I like!), whether it’s a short course sprinter or a general 500m mark sprinter or a dog that relishes a longer trip (600m plus).

If you find a runner you feel is “better class” than the others, study his most recent form carefully. Has he been running times fast enough to enable him to win in a lower grade race? Has he got the ability to lead or, if he’s seems a greyhound who comes from off the pace, has he been unlucky in recent races?

There are, of course, no hard and fast rules in working out or making sense of current form and it’s very much personal opinion which will decide the direction you take.

Most races will comprise of runners of near equal ability but a greyhound who has consistently registered faster times than the others but, for one reason or another, has failed to win would be a natural choice if we could be assured that every greyhound is going to get a trouble-free run.

This is where the box draw is vitally important. It is, in fact, one of the most crucial and revealing factors when coming to make your selection.

If you’ve managed to narrow the race down to two runners, perhaps even three (any more and you should not even consider having a bet) that you feel have a realistic chance on your assessment of class and current form, you should only bet if one of these is drawn for a trouble-free run.

For instance, say one of your choices has shown its best form from Box 1 and is drawn in Box 4 with fast starters either side, it may struggle to find a clear passage, unless it’s a brilliant beginner from the boxes and even then it could cop a squeeze up from the similarly fast beginners either side.

Should it be drawn in Box 4 and have a slower starter going from Box 5, it would probably be pretty sure of finding a clear run into the first bend providing it began with its usual brilliance.

It’s equally true that a greyhound who has been unfavourably drawn in recent races would almost certainly benefit when it gains a draw that is more favourable to its style of running. Many races, particularly those over four bends, are won by whichever greyhound leads into the first bend.

A study of the racecard, and your own knowledge of the dogs involved, will help you decide which greyhound, in a trouble free race, would have the best chance of getting to the front, or second into the back stretch.

In the case of an early pace type, you must decide whether it can clear its rivals by the first bend or is it more likely to be crowded or bumped? Or, will a strong finisher turn close enough to the leaders to gain a realistic chance of seriously challenging later in the race?

As the novice punter begins to visit a track more regularly, he or she will learn where particular greyhounds seem to race – near the rails, in the middle, or out wide.

All of these items can work in your favour but each and every one need to be answered before you can confidently have a wager.

After studying a race and deciding that your choice has an above average chance of winning, it’s down to having a bet. If you are playing small stakes, it’s as easy to bet on the track tote or the bookies or TAB.

Ideally, you will decide what price you think you should be getting. You’ve picked the greyhound, you know in your own mind whether he’s a strong fancy or just a roughie. Assess a price you will be comfortable taking, write it down and do not bet at any price shorter.

There are no strict rules for deciding the value of your chosen greyhound. You can simply use your own judgement or work out a set of full prices for the entire field.

You may be pleasantly surprised that the greyhound you have assessed at, say, 2/1, opens up at 7/2. You have some value to take advantage of and can back your selection accordingly.

On the other hand, you may feel that the race is quite wide open and your choice represents around 3/1. If the dog is available at only, say 7/4, you should walk away and forget the bet. Long term you won’t regret not taking unders.

The dog may well win, which will be frustrating, but it could lose and in that case you still have the money to do battle with.

Any fair-minded punter who studies the form and does his homework will pick a fair percentage of winners but will only make a profit if sticking to the price he feels is fair.

** In future PPMs, I’ll take a closer look at the art of picking winners, and bring you a terrific “fast food” way to zero in on the best chances at value odds.

By ‘Black Top’