Saturday, August 13, 2011

Winning With Dogs Who Disappoint


Eb Netr on Handicapping...
"Disappointed." Have you ever seen that term in a dog's lines on a racing program? Well, it doesn't mean that the dog was disappointed because it didn't win, although a lot of bettors probably were. It means that the chart writer was disappointed in the dog's performance in that race. This is one of those lines that I could do without along with a few others like: trouble (who caused the trouble - that dog or another dog?), no excuses (like dogs ever make excuses), and six lines for a dog and they never mention whether it ran inside, midtrack or outside, so you don't know where it runs without checking prior programs. But don't get me started on chart writing...
To get back to dogs who disappoint... If you've been to the dog track more than once, I'm sure you've been disappointed by a dog. Or two or three. Any greyhound handicapper who puts effort and time into learning the craft will eventually be disappointed by a dog. Unfortunately, there's not much you can do about it. After all, unless you're a lead-out, you can't very well go to the finish line, put your hand under the dog's chin, look it in the eyes and say with a quaver in your voice, "I'm very disappointed in you, Sparky. I expected you to do much better in this race."
Ah, but that's the thing about dogs who disappoint. They disappoint because we think - for whatever reason - that they should have done better than they did. We handicap for grade, class, speed, form and/or whatever other elements we use to handicap a dog race, and we decide that this dog should do well in this particular race. Then it doesn't and we're pretty dad-blamed disillusioned with the hound. But did the dog REALLY disappoint us?
Or did our handicapping leave a little to be desired? Did we overlook the fact that the dog has been running for months and is going out of form and needs a layoff, because it's getting stale? Did we neglect to notice that the dog hates the six box and has never done well from it, although it's run in the money from inside boxes and the eight box?
Did we not know that this dog needs to see the lure to run and it couldn't in this race, because it got blocked on the rail by a huge dog that outbroke it, like we should have known it would if we'd really gone over the program? What else didn't we take into consideration? Why were we - and the chart writer - so sure that this dog should have done better? (Outside of the fact that we both had a bet on it, that is.)
Dog racing isn't an exact science and greyhounds aren't robots. Sometimes, dogs who look like shoo-ins poop out and lose to dogs who don't look half as good as they do. When this happens, the crowd often cries "foul" and starts ranting about trainers stiffing their dogs and inside money fixing races. I'm not saying this kind of thing never happens - there's a lot of money at dog tracks. But I don't think it happens nearly as often as people think it does.
Sometimes, it just works out that dogs don't run as good a race as it seems like they should. Whether they just don't feel inspired that day. Whether they're tired or out of sorts or for whatever reason, sometimes dogs, like people, have an off-day. Unfortunately, when greyhounds have an off-day, it's in front of thousands of people, a good portion of whom has money riding on them.
So if any chart writers are reading this, maybe they could change "disappointed" to "didn't run as well as usual" or "seemed to be having an off-day". That way, the bettors will know that this is a decent dog who just didn't run as well as it usually runs, without implying that the dog let us down on purpose. One of the things I like the most about the dog track is that dogs never intentionally run a lousy race.
When greyhounds come out of the box, they run as fast and as well as they can, given the circumstances of that race. I've never been disappointed in a greyhound yet, although I have wondered why some of them ran like nuts. But that's another article.
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