In the first article in a three-part series, P.P.M'S greyhounds expert George 'Barker' Bellfield discusses the importance of speed and times in dog racing-and how best to use speed form information.

What is time all about in greyhound racing? Well, in a word: EVERYTHING! It's so important that any punter serious about making money at the races should inquire into the intricacies of greyhound racing time.

You can approach dog racing without access to times. I've done so with my Bellfield Ratings, but this method was drawn up on the basis that the majority of punters would not want to play around too much with times, and in some cases might not have access to them.

Generally speaking, though, times play a vital role in determining the outcome of greyhound races. In this series of articles, I'll be looking at the times aspect of dogs, and also other key areas which punters should consider when assessing form.

The performances of greyhounds are timed to an accuracy of 1-100th of a second. Dog afficionados often called '1-100th a-spot'. To calculate times of losing dogs from a winning dog, you take into account the beaten margin, using an approximation of 0.06th of a second per length. Thus, a dog beaten three lengths, with the winner *running 30.20s, would have a time of 30.38s.

You can use 0.02 for a neck, and 0.01 for a head or short head. There is often conjecture about hand-timing being just as accurate as electronic timing, but this is not so. No matter how good a clocker, he cannot match the electronic timer. The reaction time of the human clocker is simply too variable for times taken by eye, hand and stopwatch to approach absolute accuracy. It's been my experience that hand-times are often wrong by as much as a couple of lengths either way.

Punters in Australia do not have much of a service when it comes to assessing what is known overseas as 'track bias' this is when a track's surface is affected by rain. Times on wet tracks can be slower than on firm surfaces, but form guides rarely take this 'bias' into account.

If you want to assess dogs for a firm track, taking times into account, you may well have some dogs which have recorded slow times on rain-affected tracks. How do you actually compare their times, and relate them to the times recorded by other dogs on firm tracks?

Track bias allowances should be released to the public by stewards, or by track authorities, as is done in Britain. Over there, these allowances are given in units of 0.05 second. After a meeting, the tracks issue an estimate of the going; this is an official calculation of the degree by which times should be adjusted to take into account the effect of the softness, or even firmness, of the surface. A track may be declared to have been -0.20th biased, or slow (that is just over three lengths slower than normal).

Such track bias assessments enable punters to compare performances at different meetings under different conditions-a big bonus for the keen form student. Let's say Dog A has recorded 30.25s on a normal track, but Dog B has a time over the same trip of 30.65s, but with a track bias of -0.20th. You can now say that Dog B's actual time was really 30.45s, bringing it much closer to Dog A.

In the absence of such official information, the Aussie punter just has to work out his own 'track bias' assessment, which can be a most difficult task. It is only recommended for zealous punters who concentrate their attentions on one particular track, where conditions for racing can be closely monitored.

The best way to determine these 'going allowances' is to use the best times of the night for the various distances as your guide. Over a period of time, you will soon have a broad knowledge of what sort of times are likely to be recorded on fast tracks, and thus you will be able to make allowances for when the going has been rain-affected.

Which brings me to my first 'times' method of selection, and it relates to the importance 'best of the night' times. When you look at a dog's form in a reliable formguide (like Sydney's Greyhound Recorder) you will find the 'best' times for any meeting denoted in each dog's form record.

For instance:


THIRD (8) 3-1, 5th Grade, 608 Bulli, 6-690: to Cedar Queen, half length, 1.5 lens, 35.71 (Best: 35.44) 3rd all way.

This tells us that Mane Status ran 3rd at Bulli over 608 on June 6, beaten two lengths, with the winner Cedar Queen clocking 35.71. Now, as the statistics in brackets indicate, the actual Best time for that meeting was 35.44.

So, by using the 0.06th of a second equalling a length theory, we can work out that Mane Status actually ran a time of 35.83s for the 608m, which was 49100ths outside the Best time of the night (the equivalent of just over eight lengths).

If you check on all the recent runs of every dog in a race, you will be able to isolate those dogs which have (a) run Best times; or (b) have run times very close to the Best times. These dogs will, most of the time, stand out as strong prospects in the current race you are analysing.

It's a matter, then, of seeking out the fastest dogs-and this is what greyhound racing is all about. You might, say, end up with three dogs whose times have been Best or close to Best in their recent outings. By applying other form factors, you should be able to work out which dog is the best prospect.

This is just one way of using times in dog racing to your advantage. You'll need patience, a certain amount of skill, and a good form guide. But the results should make it all worthwhile.

*In next month's article, I'll be talking about how to devise a system at the dogs, using the major factors which apply to the form of each dog. It's an interesting study and I’m sure anyone keen on betting and winning at the dogs will find it fascinating.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

By George ‘Barker’ Bellfield