George 'Barker' Bellfield's new approach

Is there anything new in greyhound racing form analysis? It's an intriguing question and one posed to me by PPM Editor Brian Blackwell shortly before I set about writing this article.

Brian, who has followed the greyhounds since age 10, asked me if I could come up with a new angle or two. Ironically, I was already busily at work doing just that.

Some months back, I decided I needed to give my own selection process a boost. My usual approaches were working okay but I have been finding that more and more the value edge has been chipped away.

What I needed, I decided, was to go over all my previous theories in order to do a 'nip and tuck' job to fine-tune them into a new Ratings approach.

Now I have always maintained that SPEED, or TIMES, has to be considered the mainstay of any greyhound racing form analysis. This cannot be questioned. In dog racing, fractions of a second  hundredths of a second, in fact!) mean the difference between winning and losing.

In the run to the first turn, a sectional might be 5.28s and a dog just 10/100ths behind at this point will find itself facing an impossible task to win. That's how close it all is once the lids fly up on the boxes and the dogs set out on their pursuit of the bunny.

With this in mind, then, we simply have to apply ourselves to the task of working out which dogs have been the fastest at their most recent starts. More importantly, these base times have to be at the track where the dog is now competing.

With winners, we know the time they ran. The beaten dogs' times have to be worked out. This is a relatively easy task, though a calculator is needed. Assume 0.063s equals a length.

So, a dog beaten 1.75 lengths behind a winning time of, say, 30.55s, will have run the time of 1.75 x 0.063 equalling 30.66s (or 11/100ths of a second slower than the winner).

When you go through the formguide for the times, look for a dog's best effort over the distance at the track. The best time is the one that interests us.

Once you have established each dog's best time, you will have a broad idea of how the runners compare with each other.

For the purposes of my new Ratings approach, which I call The Power Analysis, we need to search for more clues to each dog's potential in a race. Times alone are not going to do the trick enough times, though they are a vital starting point.

We now need to build up a picture of each dog's all-round ability and each dog's suitability for the current race. This is a tricky task, and not one that can be knocked off in a few minutes.

The punter who follows my approach is going to have to adopt a seriously professional approach. He must mean business. I can promise anyone who takes the time to handle the workload that it will all pay off in the end.

At least it has for me. Since I began dabbling in my Power Analysis Ratings, my win-strike rate has increased and so has the 'value' element of my betting. This is because the Ratings are pointing the way to winners that most others are tending to ignore.

Before I get into the details of the Ratings formula, let me just say that each dog starts off with 100 points. Bonus points are added to this total.

Okay, you have established each runner's best times at track and distance. Now, you allot points for 'coinciders'. That is, if the dog's best time was from the SAME box as it now has, then that gets a 10 points bonus.

Points are also awarded for each time the dog has WON from the same box. I suggest bonus points of 5 for each win.

We now come to the issue of winning and beaten margins, and here I've decided that the BIGGER the winning margin, the better the run, and the SHORTER the losing margin, the better the run. To get the margins rating we average them out (number of winning lengths divided by number of wins, and number of beaten lengths divided by number of beaten starts).

By allotting ratings points in these areas, I am trying to quantify performances; to size them up, so to peak.

Let's say a dog has won two of his last six starts by 3 lengths and 1 length. In the others, he was beaten 2 lengths, 3 lengths, 4.5 lengths and 9 lengths.

His average winning margin is 2 lengths, and his average beaten margin is 4.6 lengths. We give the dog 5 points for each of the winning lengths, and then deduct the 4.6 for the losing margins, meaning the dog ends up with a Margins Rating of 5.4.

It could well be that a dog ends up with a minus-Margins Rating. When the final points are totalled, the minus points, naturally, are deducted.

The next points we want to examine are those relating to HOW a dog ran at its recent starts, and HOW it is likely to run in the current race.

For this we need a formguide that can provide us with such details. Luckily, they are now available on the Internet. Many meetings are covered in detail at the Pearson family's site at www.tabform.com.au for \$25 a month, a modest sum indeed. *

The guide lists interference in a race with a 'C', a wide run is 'W', a railer is 'R' and a slow getaway is listed as 'S'. A further notation is XTO, which means 'crossed to the outside'.

When assessing a dog's run, we can consider each 'C' in a race to be worth 5 points. I think this is reasonable. But we can go a bit further with an extra bonus by allowing each dog to have an extra 5 points IF it won or ran 2nd following two checks or more.

So, if you see two or more 'C' markings in a dog's race and the dog won or ran 2nd, then give it those 5 bonus points.

When we see the 'S' notation, this means a dog was slowly away and it becomes a negative as far as points score is concerned. I suggest a minus-rating of 5 points for an 'S' notation. This is because a slow beginning is a big liability in dog racing.

We want our selected dogs to be able to jump away quickly, not be at the tail of the field in the early dash. Much better to have a dog out in front than at the rear most of the time.

In contrast, we have to give bonus points for the dogs that are GOOD BEGINNERS. I always like dogs with good box manners and the ability to speed away and be right up there fighting for the lead at the first bend.

Dogs with 1 at the beginning of their in-the-running formline for a race get a bonus of 10 points. Those with a 2 at the beginning get a bonus of 5 points.

Current price is also going to be a guide for us when determining a dog's chance in a race. I won't place too much emphasis on this aspect, but we do have to take some account of it.

Use the following points list:

Favourite or 2nd fav: 8 points
3rd or 4th fav: 4 points
5th or worse fav: 1 point.

We also have to look at the dog's previous starting prices in comparison with the current price on offer. If there are major differences, we need to assess them.

For example: If a dog was 12/1 last start and is now 2 / 1, there is a message there. We have to allow for the message, which is that the dog is much more fancied now than it was last start, for whatever reasons (class drop, better draw, etc.).

Alternatively, if the dog was 6/4 last start and is now 12/1, a different message is sent out. Right? It's that the dog might have been a hot shot last start, but now he's regarded as a roughie. Again, for various reasons.

When you study The Bellfield Rules, you'll see how we account for these movements in prices.

Finally, we have each runner's overall career records. Points are allotted for any dog with a 40 per cent or more strike rate (minimum of 20 starts).

These, then, are the factors I have drawn up to comprise my new ratings formula. Used in conjunction with a good formguide, they will help you nail down any race you choose to analyse.