Before I even think about handicapping a race or a dog in that race, I like to look at the shape of the race. What’s that? Well, for me, it’s what the race will look like as it unfolds. Will it be a race where early speed is a big factor? Are there a lot of dogs with trouble lines for the turns, which means that there could be a lot of them flying the turns or knocking other dogs off the turns? Is it a higher grade race, a lower grade, or is it a puppy race? The grade of the race really affects the shape of the race, especially in M and the lower grades.
So, to find the shape of a race, here’s what I do. I look at the dogs first, but only in a general sort of way. I look at their names to see if I know any of them from previous races. Although I don’t follow every dog at every track, of course, I do keep track of some of them, even if it’s just to know their running style or little quirks. (Knowing that a dog never wins or always wins from a certain post position, is like finding gold in the street, for example.)
Next, I look for early speed, because that is so often a factor in races. I look at the Break and 1/8th calls for each dog and also look to see whether they close at the end of the race or lose position. I circle the fast breaks and 1/8th calls and the last call for closers. Then I look for trouble lines in their comments. If I find too many dogs with trouble lines, I pass the race. It’s impossible to handicap races where more than a couple of dogs will probably get into trouble or cause trouble for the other dogs, so for me, the shape of those races is a big fat zero, because that’s probably what I’ll win on them.
If the race looks playable, I handicap the other factors that I use and this gets into the other shape that matters in racing – the shape of the dog. Is it in form? Has it been running up to its best potential? Is it in the winner’s circle at least a third of the time if it’s in the higher grades, and in the quiniela at least half the time? Has it just dropped down or is it moving up? If it’s moving up, has it run in this grade before and, if so, how did it do? This will tell you if the shape of the dog fits the shape of the race.
Once you get used to doing this for every race, it gets to be automatic and doesn’t take much time at all. Then, of course, when you’ve decided which races you’re going to play, you have to actually handicap to pick winners in those races, but that’s not a problem either with a good handicapping system.