Greyhound Handicapping: Evaluate Before You Rate

Profile Picture: Eb Netr

Eb Netr

May 22nd, 2013

If you've been handicapping for a while, you know that greyhounds that can break out of the box and take the lead are usually a better bet than ones that get out more slowly. The dogs that get out first avoid trouble and can see the lure throughout the race.

You probably know that greyhounds are sight hounds. They chase their prey by sight, not smell. If we had a bunch of beagles running around the track, it wouldn't make much difference if they lost sight of the lure, as long as it smelled strongly of something they want to catch. But to a greyhound, the stimulus of seeing the lure spurs them on.

Sometimes though, breaking dogs lose their advantage and the smart handicapper needs to be alert for these situations. For instance, if there are two breakers in a race, both with similar break times, and they're not where they want to be in the boxes, you can expect trouble.

An outside runner on the rail and an inside runner in the 6, 7 or 8 and you have the potential for a bad situation. It will probably happen on the break, when one veers in and the other one slashes to the outside. The dogs that break a little more slowly than these dogs, especially the midtrack dogs, bear the brunt of this kind of setup.

So, if you see a race where it looks like the breakers are going to cross paths at the start, look for dogs that won't be caught up in the bumping and knocking around that will ensue. Maybe there's a dog that gets out second or third and can close.

I look for dogs that rarely have trouble on the first turn. Dogs that can navigate the first turn without getting bumped or blocked are usually dogs that get a good break, even if they're not first. Actually, sometimes, as in this scenario, it's better not to be first out of the box. Let the two breakers sort it out and after the tangle, the slightly slower breaker can close on whoever comes out of the melee first.

In my experience, it's a good idea to include trouble as a handicapping factor. When I look at a program, I actually rate races for how much trouble I think there will be in them. I look at the dogs' lines first, looking for dogs that have more than one or two trouble lines.

Then I look at the race shape, at the dogs running style and how that relates to where they are in this race. If I see too many dogs that aren't where they want to be, I know that there will be a lot of shuffling and bumping as they try to get to where they want to run.

Greyhounds are just like any dog. They develop habits easily and cling to them. So, if they learn to run from the rail, they'll prefer that position and head for it out of the box. This works if they're on the inside or have the best breaking speed. But if they aren't on the inside and don't have the speed to get to the rail first, they can cause a chain reaction amongst the other dogs and completely change the way a race unfolds.

So, when you look at races, consider post position and running style and how many dogs will either cause trouble or be affected by dogs that aren't where they want to be. Usually, the higher the grade, the less trouble, but not always. And the more trouble lines in a race, the harder it is to handicap it.

Sometimes, I find a race with a dog that's a standout that should definitely win its race. Then I look further and see that it's not where it wants to be or that there are too many OTHER dogs that aren't where they want to be. I pass on races like this and I'm rarely sorry.

These are the races where a big favorite loses and the payoffs are high. If you're a good handicapper, find a race like this and look for a dog that can take advantage of the situation. It's not easy, because it's impossible to predict exactly how it will unfold.

Start with the break and what you think will happen to each dog. Then think about which dogs will come out of the break in good enough position and with the right running style to negotiate the first turn. If you can figure that out, you'll know which dogs have the best chance of being there in the stretch. And you'll have a good chance of cashing a nice ticket on the race.