Time, as I have pointed out many times before in P.P.M., is what greyhound racing is all about. It is the one crucial factor that underpins the entire greyhound racing form package.

A dog's speed over a certain distance is an essential element in 'rating' greyhounds. Sometimes, this calls for extensive computer software to generate results. I've discovered a way in which the average dog follower can compare times between various meetings.

It's a form of the 'track variant' factor and I'm sure you will find it most interesting. You need to keep records of your favourite track. I operate at Wentworth Park, but for the purposes of this article I will assume a fictitious track, with a theoretical sprint distance of 520m and a track record of, say, 30.00s Oust as an example).

You need to split the races for a meeting into A, B, C and D classes. Let's say Free To All, 5th Grade, 4th Grade and Maiden. I'll also assume there have been 10 sprint races on the card. You now write down the winning times from this meeting under the four sections. The following is an example:

FREE TO ALL/ QUALITY: 30.20,  30.40
FIFTH GRADE: 30.37, 30.80, 30.65, 31.00
MAIDEN: 31.00, *30.90

If we add each section separately we find the following average times for each class:

FREE TO ALL/ QUALITY: 30.30s.
MAIDEN: 30.95s.

(These, of course, are averaged by dividing the total times by the number of races in each section).

The total of these four averages (30.30, 30.70, 30.82, 30.95) equals 122.77, which is divided by 4 and gives you an overall 'average variant' for this meeting of 30.69s. You now deduct the track record figure of 30.00s from this and you find the answer .69, which is the final 'track variant' figure for that day's racing.

Once you have a number of meetings analysed in this way, you can then adjust any dog's running time when they meet in a race, and by deducting the 'track variant' from their time you can get a pretty accurate figure of the times they might run, theoretically.

The following is an example of how you can compare dogs which ran at the same track and distance on different days, by adjusting their times according to the variant for the day.

EXAMPLE:

DOG #   LAST RACE
DIST
TIME
VARIANT
Dog 1: Jan 1 520 30.90 .78 30.12
Dog 2:Jan 152031.12.7830.34
Dog 3:Jan 452030.86.3530.51
Dog 4:Jan 352030.99.5530.44
Dog 5:Jan 152030.95.7830.17
Dog 6:Dec 3152031.21.8030.41
Dog 7:Jan 452030.77.3530.42
Dog 8:Dec 2752030.54.4530.09

The 'variants' have amended the times to show what each dog could run, given their previous times and the track variant for that day.

In this example, Dog 8 is favoured narrowly ahead of Dogs 1 and 5, but, as you can see, there is hardly anything between them on the adjusted times.

Using track variants like this is not a guarantee of winning, but it is an excellent way to compare greyhounds in a race. Once you have the variant for the day, you can better understand the 'quality' or 'worth' of a dog's run on that particular day.

The Americans use track variant approaches like this all the time, but I do know that a few clever professionals are also using them to advantage in Australia. One pro punter, who operates at Olympic Park and Sandown Park in Melbourne, told me recently that variants, or adjusted times, had helped him increase his profits substantially.

He was in Florida last year for a month's holiday and visited most of the major tracks there - Biscayne, Daytona, Flagler, Jacksonville, Ebro and Tampa to name a handful - and says he learned a great deal from talking to the US handicappers.

"I discovered that we in Australia tend to bet more by the skin of our teeth than by precise timing analysis and that sort of thing," said my pal. "I was much the same, relying a great deal on tips and intuition in my betting. I changed things once I came back from the States, and began to pore over form and times in a much more detailed manner.

"Using the speed and track variant idea has helped me line up one dog against another in a far more accurate way than I ever did before. You can understand more fully one time against another, once you have established the variant for the day.

"I would advise any greyhound punter to think carefully about this approach because it has helped me a lot, and I am sure it will help many others."

Finding the variants can be a little time-consuming but if you are a dedicated dog punter then all the study could be well worthwhile. You'll need a good form guide. The Greyhound Recorder is the one you'll need in Sydney, and Pearson's Gold Guide is what you'll require in Melbourne.

I'd be happy to hear from P.P.M. readers who test this speed rating idea in the months ahead. Write to me at P.P.M., P.O. Box 551, Dee Why, N.S.W. 2099.

By George 'Barker' Belfield

PRACTICAL PUNTING - FEBRUARY 1993