(This is an excerpt from my Greyhound Handicapping Series which is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon.)
Early speed is certainly a plus in any kind of racing. But especially in greyhound and harness racing, where the dogs and harness horses that get out early usually have the advantage. And if they’re on the inside, they really have an advantage over the other contenders.
Part of it is just that the inside runners have a much shorter distance to travel. You wouldn’t think that two or three post positions out from the rail could make such a difference, but it does. Unlike longer thoroughbred races, greyhounds don’t have as much time to jockey for position or close. Harness horse, because of the pace and the fact that they’re pulling bikes have the same problem. That’s why it’s so important to figure out which one will get out first and get to the rail.
That’s only part of it though. Have you ever bet on an early speed horse or dog, seen it break and get to the rail, albeit with a little trouble because of the horses or dogs it had to get past, but then fade at the end of the race?
Especially in harness races, this is such a common scenario. It’s really hard on the bettor who has the horse that’s leading, only to see it fade and get passed right before the wire. I know, I’ve been there. So why does that happen so often?
The reason is simple, but it took me a while to figure it out when I first started handicapping. Runners on the outside or midtrack who run the rail, even ones with early speed, just have to put out too much effort at times to get past the other runners. Yes, they may eventually prevail and get the lead, but getting it has taken so much out of them that they don’t have anything left to close at the wire.
This is especially true in harness races, but also applies to greyhound races. It takes a very strong dog to put out that burst of speed, get to the rail ahead of all the other dogs, and still have enough pizazz to stay ahead at the wire.
So, next time you’re trying to figure out if an early speed inside runner in an outside or midtrack post position has a chance of winning a race, remember to look for stamina, as well as early speed. Look at their previous races and see if they can manage to hold their position or even close in the last quarter. If they can’t, you might want to sit out the race or bet on another runner who has a better chance of being there at the wire.