A few weeks ago, I was invited to address a seminar on greyhound racing betting. A handful of keen punters were there to toss around ideas and to have a few drinks (not necessarily in that order).

Most of those attending were what I would call 'serious' punters, as opposed to professionals. They bet in $100, $200 amounts and usually can be found at five to six meetings, a week in their respective State areas.

One of those serious bettors was Steve, a father of four who I have known for many years We met by chance, as punters do, in the bar at Wentworth Park and, enjoying our Mutual hobby of form analysis, we have been pals ever since.

Like me, Steve is a speed fanatic. He says that if you can get this aspect right, then the winners will automatically follow on a very regular basis.

When he sets about sizing Lip a field of eight runners, Steve's immediate objective is to find the fastest dog. Sometimes it's easy, other times it can be difficult, especially when the runners have form carried over from other tracks.

If a race is too hard, Steve has no hesitation in forgetting it. He just moves along to the next race. This is one of his most sensible traits, an ability to exercise discipline and common sense.

Discovering the fastest dog, or dogs, in any race does take some time, especially when our Aussie formguides don't list each dog's actual race time, as is done in the USA. We have to work out the times run by beaten dogs.

Thus, we hive to work from the winner's time and, using 0.063s for a length, calculate a losing dog's time. It's important to do this, as my friend Steve discovered a long time back.

When times are worked out, one dog's 7th placing may prove a better effort than a rival dog's winning run. For instance: a dog wins in 29.50s, another dog finishes 5th beaten 3 lengths, in a race won in 29.25s.

The dog that ran 5th has actually run a better time than the dog that won. His time is 29.44s, about 1 length better.

Says Steve: I go through the last six performances of every dog in a race to work out their individual times, no matter where they raced. Once I've done that, I can see which of them has run the fastest, and which ones are likely to be hard pressed to keep up.

"The times tell me everything about these dogs; their consistency, their efforts in the various grades, their form from various boxes, and so on. By taking the times as the 'base rule' of everything, I can avoid wasting my time on the slowcoaches, the dogs that can only win if they happen to take advantage of severe interference to the well-fancied runners."

The seminar fans agreed that, of all the factors in dog racing, times were the most important. Next came box position, then early speed (ability to begin well) and, fourthly, the betting side of things.

All agreed that on-the-day betting was of supreme importance, because it reflects the very latest information, some of it 'inside' info, on a race.

The bookmakers' mail remains as important in modern-day dog racing as it did in the good old days.

Says Steve: "I'm always ready to have a second look at my assessments if I find that a dog I have dismissed has come up too short in the betting at the track. I won't always change my mind, but sometimes the pricing can alert me to significant kennel moves.

"It's important that a punter keep an open mind, whether it's at the dogs or the gallops. Late information can tell us a lot. I've often found that the betting reflects the fact that a dog has trialled well in public a few days before the race and in eagle-eyed spotter has picked Lip the trial run.

"Bookmakers still have a lot of sources at work at the trialling tracks and it can be hard for a trainer to hide a dog's fast trial run"

All those who attended the seminar came away satisfied that they'd learned something from each other Steve and I had our views on times reinforced. We have long known that speed wins in dog races, much more so than in horse-racing.

At the dogs, the runners go hell for leather from the start. There are no tactics pre-planned, no slow early and then fast home races (not by design, anyway). So you have to find the times that are the best and then apply other reliable form factors to come up with your final selection/s.

By George ‘Barker’ Bellfield