Greyhound Handicapping: Is It Possible to Handicap a Dog Race?

Profile Picture: Eb Netr

Eb Netr

July 31st, 2013

How many times have you heard someone say about a greyhound race, "It's a crap shoot?" Many, many people think that it's impossible to handicap greyhound races. They think that it's just luck, a case of which dog gets out and makes it around the first turn, or which dog happens to keep the lure in view.

I disagree. Sure, racing luck and chance have something to do with it, and not all races can be handicapped as easily or successfully. But most dog races CAN be handicapped using the basic factors of speed, class, pace and race makeup.

Position - both start position and where the dog will be able to position itself relative to its running style - are the other two important factors. And they're the ones that keep greyhound races from being crap shoots or rolls of the dice. For dogs that break, start position is probably even more important than where it will be able to run on the track.

After all, if a dog breaks and takes the lead right out of the box, it can run where it wants to run for that important early part of the race. As long as it doesn't fade, it has the best chance of winning in most races. That's why, when I handicap, I look at the early speed dogs first, to see if it's a race where one of them will have a big advantage. In races where there is only one early speed dog, and it looks like it will get the break, luck has much less to do with the outcome than it does in races where there's little early speed or too much early speed.

So, it's obvious that some races are a lot easier to handicap, because of some factor like a dog with superior breaking ability and/or early speed. But what about the races where the dogs are more evenly matched for speed and class? Aren't they won by whatever dog just happens to get the lead or the dog that keeps the lure in view? And how the heck can a handicapper know which dog that will be?

Sometimes, this is true, but many times if you really dig, you can find a guidepost that points you toward the winner of the race. Maybe there's a dog that has moved into the 1 box after running in 4 or 5 outside boxes. If the track really favors the 1 box - and several do - that dog might be the best bet of the night, especially if it's at long odds. Its win wouldn't be luck or chance, it would be for a good reason, one that didn't exist in its other races.

Is there a dog that runs the outside and is on the outside? A dog that only runs well when it can get the inside, and which has no other inside runners between it and the rail? A dog that breaks, sandwiched between two very slow breakers. A dog with a much better time in its last race than any of the other dogs?

Until you go over your checklist of factors that might influence the outcome of a race, there's no way to tell if the race is "handicappable" or not. If it isn't, then, yes, luck or chance will probably determine the outcome. But how many races like that are there on the average program?

And, more important, how many races are there that DO have a dog with something going for it that makes it a good bet and helps you figure out what's likely to happen in the race? I would say that there are many more races that the capable handicapper can handicap than there are crap shoots on most programs.