Sunday, January 1, 2012

Doing The Dash

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Up until the last few years, the shortest race at most greyhound tracks was the 5/16ths of a mile sprint. With finish times around the 30 second mark, you'd think these races would go by in the blink of an eye, but when you have money on them, it's surprising how long they seem to take.
Well, now there's an even faster sprint - the 3/16ths mile. These races are getting more popular, but I'm not sure whether I like them or not. They're over so fast, it seems to me that they just start and they're over.

There's no time for jockeying for position or anything but pure speed. Almost always, the dog that takes the lead, wins. So that would make them easy to handicap, right? Not always.
It's rare that one of these races consists entirely of dogs who only race the 3/16ths distance. Usually there are dogs from 5/16ths races in them. The trick is to figure out whether the dogs who are switching from regular sprints will be able to win at the shorter distance.
I've noticed that dogs who are switched to this shorter distance, are often dogs who break but fade in regular sprints. Maybe their trainers hope that they'll break as usual, and with the race ending sooner than a 5/16ths, they won't have time to fade. Sometimes, this works.
But other times, dogs that break in regular sprints don't get out as well in 3/16ths races and never get to the lead. Maybe the shorter distance disorients them. Maybe it's that they're starting at a different place.
They begin at the end of the first turn, run down the backstretch, around the far turn and then to the finish line. There's only one turn to contend with and a long run for home. Dogs who are used to the turns of a 5/16ths race are expecting the usual number of turns. Some may get confused by this change and hesitate or wait to make a move to the front. In these short races, that can lose the race.
When I handicap one of these races, I look for a dog who gets out fast and has consistently fast times. I don't want a dog that breaks 3rd or 4th. I want one that always gets out of the box 1st. If there's no dog like that in the race, I pass it by.
Most of the time, I just watch these races and save my bets for the longer sprints and route races. Maybe I could get good at handicapping these lightning fast dashes, but maybe it's a case of an old dog being unable to learn new tricks. Whether you bet on them or not, they're exciting. Just don't blink, or you'll miss them.
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