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Greyhound handicapping is no match for reality, as my friend Willie says. I believe the first time he said it was when we were sharing a ticket on a speedball that had just won in M, J, D and C and was about to knock the competition dead in B. He was a dead cert. He was also the only early speed in the race. As a matter of fact, the only class dog in the race, who had run in Grade A in his last race before dropping down to Grade B, was a closer who looked like he couldn’t get out of his own way when he ran in his last six races. They were all in Grade A and he had managed to hit the board for the tri enough so that he stayed in A, but just barely.
So Willie and I were leaning on the fence, preparing to watch “Speedball” win for fun and wondering why he was at odds of 5-1 instead of 2-1. Well, shortly after the dogs broke out of the box, we were wondering why he wasn’t at odds of 50-1 because he didn’t even try. He broke out of the box okay, but then he kind of hesitated, looked to his right and left and then settled in at the back of the pack and stayed there ’til the end of the race.
The dog that had been running in Grade A races, however, the closer, broke out of the box like he was shot from a cannon, raced to the lead and came in five lengths ahead of the second dog. Willie and I looked at our programs, thinking maybe we’d missed something in the winner’s lines, but he’d never broken out of the box before in any of his last six races.
So what did they do to him to make him break this time? Did they switch dogs on us? Did they “juice him up” somehow? Did they hypnotize him into thinking he was a breaker instead of a closer? What the heck happened here, we asked ourselves, as we tore up our losing tickets?
From the perspective of over forty years at the track, I can look back on that race and tell you what probably happened. It had nothing to do with race fixing, switching greyhounds or juicing them up. It had to do with two handicappers who didn’t know then what they know now. Class beats flash every time. No matter how great a young dog looks against older more classy dogs, don’t ever think that the younger dog is a shoo-in.
Even a dog that almost never breaks fast out of the box may break, if it’s in with lower grade dogs, especially young ones. Dogs form a pack every time they race. If you think about it, they’re in the lockup cages right next to each other. The dogs for each race are weighed together. Then they’re led out to the track and often stand there with the leadouts holding them while their muzzles and blankets are checked.
During that time, they form a pecking order, because dogs always have a pecking order. The dog that has run in Grade A knows that he’s classier and faster than these losers he’s running with today and he gets cocky. Maybe that’s why, when the box opens, he’s out of there like a shot, unlike his usual slow breaking style. He may be tired of trying to close on Grade A dogs that always beat him out of the box and that might be why he takes advantage of this race where he’s able to take the lead for once.
Of course, that’s just my theory. I base it on seeing dogs break in lower grade races when they’ve never broken in higher grade races. Now, when I see a dog that always closes in higher grade races, and he’s in a lower grade race, I go to Greyhound Data and check to see if he’s ever broken fast out of the box when he was in lower grade races. If he has, especially if it’s the grade he’s running in today, I consider him a contender. If I’m lucky and he’s up for it, my dog just might surprise the other bettors, but not me. I’ve done my research.