Speed-it's the main ingredient in greyhound racing. Sometimes, I feel, we place too much emphasis on speed and times, but I know there are many greyhound followers who claim it is the 'one and only' reliable factor.

So, can we actually use times to help us in the search for dog winners? Yes, we can, but it's going to take time, patience and lots of study. Those punters prepared to put in the work may well benefit in the long run from achieving a better-than-average strike rate of winners.

Greg McKinnon, a keen greyhound fan from Newcomb in Victoria, wrote to me recently about 'times' and I thought his views were so interesting that they were worth an airing in RPM. I have used them as the basis for a 'times' rating method.

Greg says: "Why not use time as a basis for rating greyhounds? You may see four dogs, who have won at their last start, in a race, but do you rate them equally? Surely not. The dog with the fastest time would be your top pick. It is not good enough to look at a dog's past performance-a dog may have run 6th at its last start but that 6th could have been 13 lengths from the winner, or three lengths!

"Using the rule of one length equalling .0625 seconds, you can work out the time of any dog in a race by the number of lengths it finished from the winner. As we know, dogs race over all distances and all tracks in different winning times, so you need another factor for your figures to really mean anything.

"This could be the track record time for the distance, and all your times are subtracted from it. Thus, a dog winning in 30.85s at Sandown over 511m (track record 30.21) would have a rating of .64' (30.85 - 30.21). Similarly, a dog running 3rd, six lengths behind the winner, would have a rating of 1.015 (30.85 + .0625 x 6) minus 30.21. This dog actually ran 31.225s for the 511m, from which you then deduct the track record of 30.21s, leaving 1.015.

"You can then add or subtract time penalties for other factors." Greg says he believes the problem of class can be resolved by the saying 'fast is class' and adds: "Sure, you have other factors which influence race times, such as interference and track conditions but I still think it is the best basic constant factor you can use. The beauty of this method is that you can apply it to all tracks and all grades of dogs, so you can look at a dog which has run its last three starts all at different tracks, and come up with a meaningful rating figure."

Well, that's Greg McKinnon's viewpoint, and one for which I have much respect. Any greyhound punter who wanted to use time as a standard could easily apply Greg's idea. Because the lower the rating the better, any 'plusses' to be added should be taken off a dog's time rating, and any 'minuses' or 'negatives' must be added on.  So, what can we apply to add or subtract from the time rating figure?

My suggestions are as follows:

CHECKS IN RUNNING: Subtract from a half-length (0.0312) to three lengths (0.187) depending on the severity of the check. This may be hard to determine unless you have seen the race, or a replay of it on video. If you have no access to replays, then adopt a general rule-of-thumb method of deducting ONE length for checks. Your form guides will mention if a dog was checked, or hampered.

SLOW BEGINNER: Beginning slowly can cost a dog ground, and therefore, time. Add on from half a length to two lengths for slow beginners.

BOX DRAW THIS TIME: In the race for which the dog is now entered, the box draw may well play a role in determining his time. Check your particular track for its win strike percentages from each box. Example: At Wentworth Park, Sydney, as at March 11 the box win percentages over 520m were: Box 1, 20.9, Box 2,12.3, Box 3, 10.8, Box 4, 12.59, Box 5, 10.47, Box 6, 10.70, Box 7, 9.21, Box 8, 12.28. With this in mind, 1 would be very tempted to give Box 1 a one length advantage, this figure (.0625) to be deducted from the dog's initial time rating.

WINS AT THE TRACK: A greyhound's experience at a track can often give it a bit of an edge over untried opponents. A dog with two or more wins at a track could be given a one length advantage. A dog with six or more wins at a track could be given, say, 1.5 lengths.

Another aspect to be considered could be a dog's performances at his last three starts compared with the best time of the night on each occasion.

If you were having trouble making your final selections you could then look at the Best of the Night aspect for the two or three dogs you have rated on top. The one with the best rating compared with Best of Night times could be the final choice.

Let's say you have narrowed a race down to two choices, which both have ratings of .35. You then look back at their last three starts, and check their times compared to the Best of Night times (listed in major form guides). Get the three figures, add them and then divide by three to get an average. The dog with the best time average is the first selection.

The one thing punters may find daunting with this 'speed and times' method is the time it takes them to work things out! You have to be dedicated to make everything come together properly.

Finally, Greg McKinnon took me to task for placing emphasis on, a dog's rise or drop in price from his last start to the current race. He calls that "pretty airyfairy stuff". I disagree. To my way of thinking, prices can be just as reliable a guide as times in dog racing. My 1989 P.P.M. Annual method of rating and pricing greyhounds is working like a dream and that's all that matters.

By George ‘Barker’ Bellfield

PRACTICAL PUNTING - MAY 1989