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The Fastest Dog Wins Most Races
Winning at the Dog Track
by Bill McBride

In greyhound racing there are approximately 17 handicappingfactors that can be measured and compared; some more, or less, pertinent for various grades, at various tracks, on various course lengths. Generally, one will find that no more than 3 to 5 of these 17 factors will need to be rated. Which 3 to 5 is the question constantly being studied by the “pros”.

The one factor that tends to be most meaningful is SPEED (known as Time, A.R.T., (Average Race Time), Speed Rating, Adjusted Time, etc.)

Some handicappers contend that Speed is not a very viable handicapping factor. I don’t agree at all, but sometimes it is a difficult factor to measure. While there is no one right way to go about this, it is important to track your success. Without knowing how you’re doing, you won’t have a chance of improving your score.

The art of sound Speed handicapping deserves your full effort. Yet, if 10 expert handicappers were to agree that a certain dog in a race was provably “faster” than the others, that dog is not guaranteed to win. Eight dogs racing hell-bent around a circular dirt track will often refute sheer logic. There is no doubt, however, that the fastest dog has a better chance than the second fastest. Over a span of time, speed counts! When you find better ways to compute speed factors you will increase your profits at the track — no doubt about it!

There are various ways to approach calculating Speed differences. You may find that a slightly different approach works best for different grades and course lengths. The key is to experiment, record, and monitor your results, until you have the best possible system worked out. Here are some generalities that I use.

For most grades I average the most recent three clear races shown in the PPLs (Past Performance Lines). For the top grade (or both AA and A, for those tracks which run AA) I average the three best (fastest) times shown from among all of the PPLs shown.

Do not use those times from any race run on an off-condition track (S = Slow or M = Muddy, etc.) Do not use any times that are from a race in which the dog had some type of trouble (Bumped; Crowded; Cut Off; etc.) If you don’t have three clear PPLs to use, settle for two only if you feel those two are representative.

As you practice your skill at this important handicapping factor, you may find a time for a dog that seems unusually fast, compared to that dog’s other recent times. If this time was recorded in a win, use it. If it was for a finish other than a win, be a bit suspicious. Check the time of the winning dog in that particular race. If this time was unusually fast, it’s possible that a very fast leading dog can “draft” along the dogs behind, fooling them into running a faster race than normal. You might “temper” that time a bit, or not use it, if enough other clean race times are available.

The printed program at some tracks lists a “meet best” time for each dog. This is the fastest time the dog has recorded during the current race meet (or calendar year for those tracks that race year around). While this might seem, initially, to be an accurate indicator of how “fast” each dog is, you will likely find it to be an unreliable yardstick. The “meet best” time recorded for some of the dogs may well have been months ago. Your best bet is to utilize data from only the last few weeks. In some grades, you might, however, experiment with the use of this “meet best” comparison as supplemental data.

Likewise, some tip sheets and handicapping services purport to provide a “speed rating”, or ranking, for each of the dogs. While this would seem to appear to be a valuable timesaver, the data should seldom be considered accurate. In many cases, the times from troubled races and/or off-condition track races have been averaged into the figure shown. In others, the figure is a running average from the start of the meet, and may well include obsolete data and/or off-season times.

In summary, never shortcut your Speed handicapping! This is usually, though not always, your single most important factor. Don’t make mountains out of molehills, for tiny differences in speed are of no consequence. Finding recognizable differences in speed capability is the key to predicting the probable outcome of a race — be it dogs, horses, cars, or humans.

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