Speed comes up almost constantly in greyhound handicapping. Why wouldn’t it? Speed is what gets one dog around the track faster than the other 7 dogs. Obviously, if you can figure out which greyhound has the fastest speed, you can pick the winner of any race. But that’s easier said than done. Believe me; learning speed handicapping in greyhound racing can take a lifetime.
I think most of us handicappers start out by looking for dogs with the fastest times in their last races. When we realize that doesn’t work, we may switch to dogs with the fastest “best time” if the program provides that information. Many of them do. But that’s not really a true picture of how fast the dog will run in any race. Even if the conditions and dogs of the “best time” race were exactly the same, there’s no way to tell how fast a dog will run.
The weather might have been different that day. The track might have been soft near the rail or roughed up or particularly hard if the “best time” is a lot faster than the dog’s usual times. Speed is more than just numbers. Speed has to be compared to grade, class and post position. In other words, there’s no way to compare speed between dogs without taking other factors into account.
There are some dogs that are speed demons if they catch a good break, can see the lure throughout the race and don’t get cut off by other dogs. But when they race against dogs who don’t have quite as much speed, but who always run their best race whether or not they get the break or can see the lure, these dogs can lose their speed advantage if things don’t go just the way they want them to.
What I mean is that speed only works if the dog also has determination, catches a good break and is able to run where and how it wants. Trying to figure out whether all of this will come together today for this particular dog is the first step to learning speed handicapping in greyhound races.
There are sports betting systems that purport to translate speed figures into a mechanical formula that allows you to compare dogs’ speed ratings between grades, but I’ve never found one that worked. Maybe it’s partly because I’m not big on crunching numbers with a calculator or software when I’m handicapping. But maybe it’s also because you can’t really use prior speed to absolutely calculate today’s speed in a greyhound race.
True, if you look at a race and see that one or two dogs are consistently faster than the other dogs, you’d make a mental note of that as you look at the other factors in today’s race. But you wouldn’t stop right there and play those dogs just because they look fast. You’d keep handicapping and looking for how they’re going to get out, what their running style is and how the other dogs are going to affect them.
So, speed is one factor in greyhound handicapping, of course it is. But using speed as the key factor in handicapping isn’t the secret to winning at the dog track. If it was, we’d all be rich and it wouldn’t take half as long to handicap our programs. Learn to handicap for speed, but then go on to post position, running style, class and the other factors that help you pick winners, quinielas and trifectas.