One of the handicapping factors that handicappers look at is running style. Dogs usually prefer to run on a certain part of the track. Inside runners like to run close to the rail. Mid-track runners prefer the middle part of the track and outside runners prefer to run way on the outside edge of the track.
Most dogs, if they can’t get to where they want to run, will do one of three things. Either they’ll drop back, run around the dogs in front of them, or try to run through the dogs that are blocking them.
Two of these things – dropping back and trying to run through the dogs in front – rarely work. Sure, once in a while a dog manages to drop back and then catch up at the end of the race to finish in the money. Or a dog manages to slither through the dogs in front of it without getting blocked, bumped or knocked down.
But usually, if a dog can’t run where it wants to run, that dog doesn’t finish in the money. It’s one of those givens that you learn after you’ve been handicapping for a while. That’s why seasoned veterans always pay attention to whether a dog is where it wants to be when it comes to running style.
However, there’s one type of dog that has a unique running style that can help you cash some tickets. This type of dog is rare, but if you find one at your track, you’ve found a little gold mine. I call them Flexible Flyers. These dogs might prefer to run inside, mid-track or outside, but they’re not as locked into it as most greyhounds. These are the dogs that can shift their style in mid-stride if they’re blocked.
They can also run from inside boxes even if they’d prefer the mid-track or outside boxes. This is a rare trait in greyhounds. Not surprisingly, it’s more common in the better grades and especially in dogs that win stakes races.
This ability to be flexible is definitely a plus for any dog. But especially when dogs get up into the better grades, they need something special to win because the other dogs are also good. It’s one of those little things that give them an edge, which is always something you should be looking for when you handicap.