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Greyhound Handicapping Putting It All Together

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Eb Netr

August 15th, 2013

There's an old saying: "Don't miss the forest for the trees." I never gave much thought to what that really means, until the other day when I was handicapping a race at Palm Beach. There was a dog that puzzled me. I knew it was a good dog. I'd made money on it in the past.

It had raced right up the grade ladder with very few missteps, then stayed in the top two grades for most of the last year. Now, it had dropped down to C and was the class dog in the race I was looking at. I didn't know whether to just automatically throw it into my exotics because of its class or not.

I know from past experience that class is a big factor in greyhound handicapping. Even if a dog hasn't been hitting the board and looks like it's in a slump, if it has been running with classier dogs than the ones in the race it's in now, there's a good chance that it will "wake up" and post a win.

But this dog really looked like it would take a stick of dynamite to wake it up. It had been running 6th and 7th and wasn't breaking like it used to. It's a dog that has to have the lead to win - has to see that lure - and I wasn't too confident that it was going to get out early enough to even hear the lure, never mind see it. I passed on the race and just watched it to see what happened.

It turns out that my misgivings proved to be true. The dog in question was never a factor in the race. It ran at the back of the pack with very little enthusiasm. I looked back at the program and realized that I had missed the forest by focusing on a couple of "trees", such as the trouble lines in its last three races and poor post positions in three of its last four races.

True, these could have been reasons for its poor performances. But reasons aren't the same as excuses. I could have excused it if it had only run a couple of bad races and had then run a couple of better ones where it was at least fourth or close in lengths to the leaders. It wasn't though. It was far back in all six of its last races.

I also should have looked at its age, but I hadn't. It was heading for its fifth birthday, usually the end of a career for greyhounds and time to find a forever adoptive home for them. This guy had had a successful career, but it was winding down. The slower times and trouble in his races weren't temporary or due to post position or anything but age and time. It happens to all of us.

When you see a greyhound that seems to be heading down the grade ladder, ask yourself if it's a temporary condition or time to stop playing the dog, even if you've had success playing it in the past. Don't make excuses for it, but do research to see if there are excuses for its lack of success lately. Look closely at its age and look for indications of recent injuries, like "Did Not Finish" or "Fell" in its lines.

Sometimes when greyhounds fall or get injured, their confidence is shaken, even after they recover from their injuries or fall. Some take a couple of races to get back into the groove of running. Some never do recover their confidence and have to be retired. Handicappers sometimes have to draw conclusions based on more than we can read in the program lines. Don't let the trees get in the way of finding the forest when you're trying to handicap and you'll avoid some dogs that have more going on than the program will tell you.
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