Another great greyhound article

In an article in the April issue of PPM, I stressed that SPEED RATINGS are the single most important factor in greyhound handicapping. 

I realise, however, that the racing forms used in your country make it very difficult to rank and compare the dogs’ speed/time averages.  Here in the US our form typically list the dogs’ six most recent races, usually all on the same track and the same course length.

Other than differences caused by weather, (rain, snow, unusual temperatures, etc), it is rather easy to sort out the “faster” and “slower” dogs in an upcoming race. 

However, in your country you are typically looking at only four recent races in the printed form and many of those are at different tracks, with different configurations, track surfaces, etc.

Furthermore, while our US race forms show each dog’s actual time in those six past races, you must do a good deal of computing to approximate the beaten dogs’ times.

You might think that our handicapping would be so “easy” that our pay-offs would be quite small. Not so, as the nature of dog racing is such that a good deal of contact usually occurs, making race outcomes not as predictable as it may seem.

So, given the difficulty you face in computing speed ratings, you are left to count this as somewhat less pertinent. While it remains a fact that the dog which has been running the fastest in recent races has a much better chance of finishing in the money than does the “slowest” dog, you have far too little information to be able to make this ranking very accurately.

And when you do your best at speed/time computing, be aware that differences that you identify must be somewhat substantial to be meaningful.

In other words, a speed ranking of, say, 23.14 is hardly any “faster” than another dog computed at 23.25!

Are the “Best Times” listed in the racing form for each dog a useful factor? Perhaps, but you’ll need to study on this before adopting it into your handicapping approach. Keep in mind that this “best time” may have been recorded on a different track, or on a different surface. 

To measure the pertinence of this piece of information, (or most any other rank-able factor), do what I call an: “Of and In” test.  Write down the number of dogs that started the race with the fastest “Best Time”.

Of these dogs, how many finished in the Quinellas? You’ll arrive at a percentage. Continue to track the other seven rankings. What percentage of the time did the SECOND “Best Time” come in first or second? The third? Fourth? And clear down to the eighth fastest time.

You may well learn that the two slowest ranked dogs very rarely finish in the Quiniela. Useful info!  Or, you may find that very little difference is found in this factor. Also useful info!

Thusly, you may find that other race factors can be sorted out to give you the edge that you seek. For example, you may find that the dollars won, per start, can sort out to a credible factor. (Simply divide the total dollars won by the number of starts.)

If I own a dog that I have been running to the best practical purse level, and that dog is averaging  purses of, say, $80, and you have a dog that is only averaging $30 per start, chances are that my dog is capable of beating your dog. Here, as in most other handicapping factors, only meaningful differences should be considered. 

For example, a dog averaging winnings of $45 per start can’t be considered to be much better than one averaging $40. This factor, of course, is not going to be of much use in Maiden races.

Keep in mind that 25 per cent of the eight dogs that start a race will end up in the Quinella. That is, you could say that any dog that starts the race has a 25 per cent chance of winning or placing. Thus, 25 per cent can be considered random, so any result indicating this 25 per cent would be no factor at all.

If you find a factor that indicates dogs that fall in that category finish in the Quinella, say, 35 per cent of the time, or only 15 per cent of the time, you have uncovered a factor that has some meaning! If you are doing a study on TRIFECTA factors, the “random percentage” becomes 37.5 per cent.

You might find it useful to compare the dogs’ printed “history”, in terms of the number of starts, wins, places, and shows.  For example, a dog with 12 starts, four wins, three places and three shows (12-4-3-3), is likely to be a stronger dog than another with a 10-1-1-4 record.

In my opinion, since I consider that nearly any dog can SHOW, but that it takes some skill or effort to WIN or PLACE, I only consider those positions. 

That is, I would consider that first example as performing at “58 per cent”, (seven wins and places divided by the 12 starts), and the second dog performing at only “20 per cent”.  To be a pertinent factor, one should be looking at a minimum of at least about eight starts.

A factor of consideration not available to you are the “Chartwriter’s comments” shown for each past performance line in the race form at US tracks. A sample of such comments on a given dog’s last six races might be:

. . . tripped over fallen dog
. . . little effort, mid-track
. . . broke quickly to the inside
. . . driving from last
. . . umped in stretch
. . . late command, inside

Note that these comments are brief, as most tracks limit them to 19 or 20 characters. But they can be quite pertinent in judging the performance of that particular dog. In your case, you can, at some of your tracks, call up on the Internet the “Stewards Report” for a given past race, and learn quite a bit in this respect, but this is a rather cumbersome bit of detective work.

Post position bias is another factor you can measure. Be sure that you do not combine one track’s data with another, as the configuration of the various tracks makes a substantial difference in this respect. Look at a sample of about 50 recent past races at a given track (and in a specific class/grade, if you can).

Document how the post positions fared, in terms of those winning or placing. Your sample might look something like this:

W & P

In this particular sampling, we would see that, indeed, the number 1 and 2 boxes seem to have a substantial edge, the number 3 and 8 boxes can’t be counted out, and that the number 5, 6, and 7 seem to have a disadvantage. (Keep in mind that a dog with fast breaking capability can overcome a poor post position!)  Another sampling, at another track, or at another grade/class, might well provide an entirely different finding, so don’t go off half-cocked on your initial test!

What other factors can be tested for their pertinence? I hear folks sometimes say something like, “Number 6 emptied his bowels just before the race – I’m betting on HIM!” If you actually think things like this could be meaningful, measure them! Keep records. Do an ‘Of and In’ test. Of 25 dogs that pooped just prior to the race, six finished in the Quiniella!”

That is just about the median number of dogs in any race that will finish in the Quinella – in other words, no factor. Check it for yourself.

Likewise “heavy” dogs, or lighter dogs. Dark coloured dogs against light colours. You can check any factor you wish. 

Perhaps you’ll find older dogs to be disadvantaged. Or dogs from a certain kennel to have an “edge” – or not. Likewise trainers.
With some study, you may develop an approach which includes consideration of the dog’s recent starting odds, or up or down from one grade to another.  Or the average “lengths off the winner” it has been finishing.

In any case, it is up to you, alone, to determine which factors are worth considering (at which track), and which are a waste of time.  Remember, you don’t want to use up too much time in ever “fine tuning” your handicapping methods, as you need to make available at least an equal amount of time in the improving of your wagering approach!

By William ‘Bad Bill’ McBride