If we look at the sparse greyhound form contained in most newspapers, and some formguides, we are seeing only a segment of the true picture.

It's a bit like looking at the façade of a house without having the key to discover what lies inside. Who knows what's behind the door?

We may see that a dog ran 7th last start, and 6th before that. The tendency is to ignore the dog. What we don't know is what might have contributed to the dog running so 'badly'. Was it because he simply wasn't good enough, or was it because of something else?

Anyone who watches dog racing on SKY TV racing, will realise that so many things can go wrong in a race, especially at the all-important first turn. I long ago lost count of the good things I've backed which had their chances wrecked in a melee at the first bend.

It's vital, then, that we try as best we can to discover what happened to a dog in a race. Not just the losers, but the winners and placegetters, too. Why did the winner win? Why did the runner-up finish 2nd? And so on.

To do all this research, you will need a good formguide. Happily, the availability of good formguides has greatly improved, thanks to the Internet.

The best formguide of all for Australian dog racing has recently become available on the Net. I refer to the Pearson family's Gold Guide. It now provides an excellent form service via its website. The cost is low at $25 a month for as many guides as you like (all are downloaded via Adobe Acrobat, a freely available software package).

Using the Pearson's guide, you can discover all the ins and outs of what happened to a dog in a race.

Take, for example, Helena Bale. We can trace how she moved to a win at Sandown on September 22, and understand why she lost in her previous four starts.

We go back to August 30, when she finished 7th at The Meadows over 518m when priced at 5/1. The form shows her 'run' in the race: 3C/7/6/7

This tells us she was away okay from the boxes (she was drawn in 7) but copped a check at the first turn. From that point she was back to 7th, moved up slightly to 6th before winding up 7th, beaten 6.2 lengths.

At her next start, she was again in trouble, this time from box 3 over 515m, the guide revealing she was checked twice early and lost her position of 3rd early to drop back to 6th, where she stayed, copping another check.

Coming from box 1 at Geelong over 457m on September 10, she was checked at 4th on the first, went wide into 6th and stayed there. Once again, we see that she was checked early. Back to The Meadows on September 13, she copped another check early but managed to come from 6th to finish 4th, though beaten more than 7 lengths.

There was some improvement next start, at The Meadows two days later, with Helena Bale finishing 3rd, beaten 4.75 lengths, again tracking wide from box 6. She was well backed at 5/2.

Now, the winning run, and perhaps it could have been expected. Given her tendency to track wide, she was well drawn in box 8 at Sandown over 515m on September 22.

In this race, she was 2nd away from the boxes, held that position at the first bend, tracked wide and led throughout. At last she had missed trouble at the first turn.

Her time was 30.17s, a great improvement on her recent starts, especially her last outing at Sandown, when her race time was 30.57s, a difference of some 6.35 lengths.

When you assess a race, then, have a close look at a dog's recent formlines, and try to find an explanation for a defeat, or a win, etc. The 'C' marks in the formguide will show you how much trouble a dog ran into.

There are other markings that deserve consideration, too, and I'll be looking at them in the next two articles in this series. In the December PPM, I'll unveil my latest Ratings plan for the dogs, and in the January 2000 issue of PPM, I'll show you how to operate three form-based systems.

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

By George 'Barker' Bellfield