Greyhound racing is probably the best system under which a punter in Australia can risk - or rather, invest - his hard earned dough. To my way of thinking there is nothing so good as a standout "good thing" at the dogs.

To have a top dog in its best box on the rails, knowing it is a good beginner and that it's fit, is a solidly reassuring base from which to launch a savage assault (cash wise) on the bookie or the tote.

It is not the same story with horses and trotters. In those sports you have a human being to take into consideration, and, as the old saying goes, they are, after all, only human (!) and prone to error, and mistakes. Bearing these in mind, it's not surprising that so many good things get done to a dinner at the gallops and the trotting. With dog racing the human hand has its last touch with the race once the dogs have been placed in the boxes. From then on, only the lure driver provides a human element and only once in 100,000 times does something go wrong. As soon as the lids fly the dogs are on their own.

I have found greyhound racing provides a satisfying form of betting but it has worried me over the years that not enough people pay enough attention to all the details to punt PROPERLY on the dogs. Too often they scan a very limited newspaper form guide and follow the advice of tipsters who themselves have not done their homework. Most times, you'll find their tips are poor. They lose and so does the old punter.

As in all betting you should not risk one cent of your hard-earned brass without full investigation of the race. I know that for a lot of people this is impossible. They haven't got the time or the patience to sort out a race and so they rely on the "experts" to advise them. My aim is to help the punter who feels he is not doing himself or his money justice.

Naturally, people who attend dog meetings will best be able to judge a dog's ability. They see everything that happens but the off-course punter has to rely on the radio broadcasters for their assessments of what happens in a race. Many times this is not good enough. The commentator may have placed a large bet on a certain dog and calls the race through his pocket, ignoring good runs turned in by other greyhounds in the race. I know that many punters simply cannot attend greyhound meetings. This applies a great deal to people living in country areas. They are too far from the city tracks and are forced to rely on newspaper experts like myself and the course commentators.

Although around 5,000 to 10,000 people attend each city dog meeting I fear a lot of them do not really "see" a race. Most are without binoculars, which I regard as a necessity, despite good eyes. With the binoks you can really get a great view of what happens during a race. Other punters spend too much time in the bar. With grog in them they bet blindly and often only casually watch the races on colour TV in the bar. The true, experienced dog punter will watch a race live through binoculars and then watch the replay on colour TV. I suggest you then jot down any remarks next to the dog's name in the race book. You may have noticed that the dog from Box 4 got badly checked and yet made up a lot of ground to finish 4th. It is wise to put this viewpoint down in writing before you forget it. I make a firm point of doing this after every race. I try to go right through the field, jotting down remarks next to each dog from what I remembered of the race. Those I am doubtful about I make a check on when viewing the colour replay.

My book, then, could read like this after a race:

  1.  HALAMID FLYER: Quickly away, led, faded straight.
  2.  ATTILIO: Slow, 5th early, finished well.
  3.  MANDOLIN: Slowly away, checked, wide, ran on 4th.
  4.  SLICK VERONICA: Never a threat, 7th.
  5.  YULETIDE: Got long way back, railed, strong fin., 3rd.
  6.  TANGALITA: Quickly away, every chance, railed, 2nd.
  7.  GYPSONNA: Never chance, slow start.
  8.  NATIONAL BLEND: Railed, same 5th all way.

To fill in your race book like this takes only a few minutes. Believe me, it is well worth your while to do so. It is just too much to try to remember how 80 dogs went at any particular meeting. Only one or two dogs will stand out in your memory. I think it's always best to rely on your own judgement, too. Quite often the form guide details of a race are wrong or incomplete. The same goes for stewards' reports, although these can be used as form pointers.

You probably don't need me to tell you the vital importance the box draw plays in any greyhound race at any track in the country. The draw often determines whether a dog has a winning chance or no chance at all. This chapter is devoted to an analysis of each box. Read it carefully and keep in mind the points that are made and I am sure you will be helped when faced with sorting out future races. As you will see from my comments I am convinced that the key to riches in dog racing lies with the rails box, No. 1. The way I see it, this is, without a doubt, the best box of them all. The result of races confirm this. Box 1 invariably produces more wins than any other box.

Find a good beginner, a good railer and a fit dog - put them in Box 1 - and you are on the road to quick wealth. Most winners at the dogs come from Box 1 and this is no surprise. It is the best box of them all. For one thing, the inside box dog does not have to contend with any other greyhounds on his inside. If he breaks well he has first access to the important rails running.

He also misses any of the interference that results from bunching soon after the start when railers try to spear across to the inside or wide runners veer out. Even if a Box 1 dog is slowly away there is invariably a chance for him to sneak up on the rails. In many races the leading two or three dogs will move off the track when they hit the first turn, leaving plenty of room for the Box 1 dog to rail up. I have often seen Box 1 dogs 4 or 5 lengths from the lead approaching the first turn but they have shot through to lead along the back when the leaders fanned wide. When you go through the form of a dog drawn in Box 1, I suggest you look for these important facts:

  1. Is it a good beginner?
  2. Is it a confirmed railer?
  3. Has it won before from Box One?
  4. Has it got early speed and do you estimate it can lead to the first turn?
  5. Is it proven over the distance of the race in a similar class event?

If the answers to all these five questions are YES then I can assure you that you are very, very close to a winning bet?

Of all the boxes at the dogs, the rails box gives a greyhound every possible chance to prove his worth. Even wide runners can be suited by this box, as long as they have the ability to break smartly. One punter I know, who makes a living from the dogs, always bets heavily on favourites starting from Box 1.

He reckons that if a dog is favourite then he is likely to be ideally suited by all conditions of the race, particularly the box. Of course, he makes his own investigations but almost always ends up putting his money on the rails box favourite.

I know for a fact that he wins. He lives in a plush apartment (he owns 2), wears the best clothes and drives a Jaguar. He hasn't worked since 1969. So there you are, the original Box 1 Toff.

This is another very bettable box in greyhound racing. Obviously, it is not as good as the rails box but it comes pretty close. A good beginner in Box 2 should have a 90 per cent interference free run to the first turn if it has the necessary pace and zip from the time the lids open. Unlike Box 1, though, it does have that rails dog on its inside, and therefore, is subject to a squeeze situation soon after the start.

This is not one of my favourite boxes. In fact, I avoid backing greyhounds in it as much as I can. The dog has to be a topflight performer to win my support from Box 3. In a sample check I found that Box 3 wins less than 15 per cent of races. Any dog starting from Box 3 in a sprint has to be a good beginner.

With 5 dogs on its outside and another two inside the Box 3 greyhound doesn't have much going for it. In fact, it's a sitter for early strife. In longer races (650-800m) I think the evils of Box 3 are offset to a greater degree.

In these races the dogs have more time to settle down, and, quite often, the Box 3 dog can obtain a trouble free run. So don't be put off too much if your fancy has this box in a staying race.

You'd reckon this would have to be a bad box... but at most tracks it isn't.

If you have a good beginner in Box 4 then you are well in with a fighting chance of avoiding trouble. Many times the middle dog gets space to settle down cleanly because of the buffeting that occurs with the dogs on the inside and outside of them.

Naturally, it is sensible to bet only on good beginners in Box 4. There is a great risk attached to following slow beginners from this particular draw. They often find their path blocked if they miss the start by a length or two.

The outside dogs move in and the Box 2 and 3 dogs shift out a bit. At the first rum you have a dog who is some lengths back with most of the field bunching in front not a good winning situation. On the o er hand. a good beginner from Box should I get the room to obtain a prominent position n at the first turn.

BOX 5 & 6
I regard these two boxes as the worst in an 8-dog event. I think records will prove me right. Dogs starting from these boxes need a lot more luck than their competitors. They are subject to A sorts of interference. Once again, they will have to be smart beginners to overcome the natural disadvantages. My suggestion is that you carefully examine the form an ' d general racing tendencies of any dogs in these two boxes to ensure they are fully capable of winning against the handicap of their bad box.

I have seen many top class greyhounds beaten out of sight when starting from Box 5 or 6. So many things can happen to upset their chances that you have the percentages stacked against you right from the start. My final words are these: Boxes 5 and 6 BET CAREFULLY.

This is a good box if your dog can break smartly. It is a poor box for slow beginners as they tend to face a situation where the field crosses in front of them and blocks their view of the lure. In staying races, I rather like Box 7. I believe it is because a genuine stayer can come from behind and win. So, if he does suffer early strife from Box 7, he can still have time to overcome it and finish on.

This is the 3rd best box in greyhound racing, the best 2 being Nos. 1 and 2. From the outside a dog can avoid squeezes and buffeting. If he is a smart breaker then he usually has a clear run to the first turn.

Wide runners, naturally, are ideally suited in Box 8. Their tendency to scout wide will keep them clear of other dogs. And when they make the first turn they take a path wide out, and, again, miss trouble. Many times you will find that a good railer will win from Box 8. This usually happens if the dog is a good beginner.

Breaking fast, he spears across the face of the field close to the first turn and snaps up the rails running. My advice is not to be put off at all if your dog is drawn on the outside.

There are a few simple rules for you to follow when analysing a dog race. Firstly, you must have a good form guide. The best available, from a details point of view, is the Gold Guide, put out in Victoria by Greyhound Form Guide Pty. Ltd. In Sydney, the natural choice is the excellent publication, the Greyhound Recorder. The latter is possibly the best greyhound guide published anywhere in the world. The details it gives are fantastic.

Firstly, jot down the names of the dogs who have drawn well. Leave them aside for the moment and glance through the form of the remaining dogs. Your aim is to eliminate those dogs which CANNOT win. Usually, on form and other figures, you can immediately rule out three of the eight dogs in the race. This leaves you with five. Now you look for the eventual winner. Do remember to take into account all the important factors regarding box draws, fitness, form, early speed, and, late finishing ability. On top of this you have to try to figure out in your own mind how the race will be run and which dogs will strike interference. Ibis is a tough task but one which you should have a go at each time you set about investigating a race. An interesting factor to look for is a greyhound who has been dropped down in grade. In this case the dog in question may have poor form because he has been racing against stronger greyhounds.

Now that he is dropped back in class it means he has a much better chance. Where in the higher grade he was beaten for pace to the first turn, in the lower grade he probably has enough early speed to be right up there. This will make all the difference. By the same token, he may be a late speed dog who could not produce a finishing burst good enough to overhaul the speedsters in the higher grade but in the lower class race he will be able to finish over the top of the pacemakers, merely because they are slower conveyances.

One thing I do look for when studying a race is "the littlest dog". If this is a bitch in the 23kg to 26kg weight range I take a look at the dogs closest to her.

If these are big dogs around the 32 kg to 36 kg mark, then I ask myself if the tiny bitch will be in strife with them. Can they shoulder her out of the way or veer in or out against her. If they do, and they give her a fair sized whack, then it will be hard for her to overcome this. Once you have carefully examined a race you should be able to reduce the chances in a race to three contenders.

Often one dog will stand out well above all the rest, having fulfilled most of the major considerations of form assessment. Nine times out of 10, of course, your three dogs will not fill the first 3 placings in a race. Often, though, two of your three picks will run in the first three placings. If you can maintain a high placing average then you are doing well. I aim for a 40 per cent win record and an 80 per cent place record with my first selections.

By Brian Blackwell