Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Get With The Program

Winning With Eb Netr....
Let's say you go to the track a couple or a few times a week. You usually meet some friends there and you all have a good time, drinking coffee, sitting together, going over your programs and talking about the dogs. It's a pleasant way to while away an afternoon or evening, but it's not the best way to handicap greyhounds. Here's one reason why.
Usually, the conversation goes something like this:
Jimmy: So what do you think of the four dog in the first race?
Al: He's a fighter. He gets to the front and as soon as another dog gets near him, he turns his head and fights. I wouldn't bet him if he was the only dog in the race.
Bruce: I don't see any lines here where he fights. Where do you see that?
Al: I've seen him do it a million times. The chart writer just doesn't write it up that way. Trust me, I know my dogs and this dog is a fighter.
So even if they have doubts about how well Al knows his dogs, everyone in that group now has some doubts of their own about the four dog. No matter which track you go to, there are always people who claim that they "know the dogs" better than the chart writers or the other bettors.
Some of these people don't even use their programs to handicap. A few of them don't even BUY a program. They just look at other people's programs for the dogs' names and then tell you how they ran in the past. They'll tell you that they "follow the dogs" and "keep track in their heads". They probably even believe that they do, but they don't.
Dogs go in and out of form. Even the best dogs change over the course of their careers. And the bottom line is that no one - not even Einstein in his prime or Jimmy the Greek - could remember hundreds of dogs' histories and predict how they're going to run in any given race. It's impossible.
Not only that, we all remember things the way we want to remember them. We have selective memory at the best of times and when emotions are running high as our dogs carry our hopes for winning around the oval, our memory isn't working at full capacity. If we bet on a dog that usually closes and it doesn't close well, we may notice and remember that it was cut off by another dog, or we may get the impression that it just didn't close for no reason at all and decide that it's a quitter.
If we see a dog go wide on the turns in a sprint race, we may call it a wide-runner for the rest of its life, when it was really only wide in that one race, because the dog next to it, a fighter, kept forcing it out. Or it may only run wide in sprints and we don't remember that and it wins for fun in a route race and we wonder why it didn't go wide this time. We see what we want to see.
What we should be looking at when we handicap the dog races is the dogs' lines for its last six races. At least. I go back a lot farther than that with online data, especially if I'm at a track I haven't been to in a while. I look at these "past performance" lines to get an idea of whether the dog is going into or out of form, whether it's going to be happy with its box and whether it's done well at this grade in the past.
I use facts and figures, not my own faulty memory, to tell me if the dog has a chance at beating the competition today. It doesn't matter what it did three months ago or - more importantly - what I think I remember that it did three months ago. What matters is what always matters in greyhound handicapping. Class, Consistency and Competition.
You'll never be successful at winning at the dog track if you listen to people who don't look at the program. The best greyhound handicappers I know spend at least a couple of hours going over their program alone, before they ever join their friends at the track. And good handicappers never let themselves be swayed by what someone else thinks. They have faith in their own judgment, because they know they've done everything they can to put the odds in their favor.
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