Greyhound Handicapping A Few Of My Favorite Things
I've been thinking about favorites a lot lately. The first thing I learned about them is that they win about a third of the time. I was pretty impressed by that until I learned the second thing about favorites, which is that they lose two-thirds of the time, or about twice as often as they win. That didn't seem to help my handicapping very much.
Now that I've been at this handicapping wheeze for three plus decades, I've learned a lot more about favorites. One thing I've come to realize is that there are two kinds of favorites. There are morning line favorites and there are crowd favorites - the ones that are at the lowest odds just before the race goes off.
Now, I'm not going to get into the whole offshore, odds-rigging, bet canceling brouhaha that's pretty much all over the simulcast tracks lately. But I will say that odds seem to change radically after the races go off, way too often for it to be a fluke. It would be a very good thing if the powers that regulate greyhound, harness and thoroughbred racing get that sorted out so that fans will stop getting the idea that we're being cheated by people who manipulate the odds. But that's a whole 'nother article.
Getting back to favorites, whether morning line or crowd favorites, one of the things I look for when a dog is a favorite is whether it was a favorite before. If so, did it win? If not, I look to see if I can figure out why it didn't win. Poor post position is one of the most common reasons, followed by the dog being bumped, blocked or cut off. I can forgive a beaten favorite if there was a good reason for it losing, and bet on it today, hoping it will have a better race.
Sometimes, the situation the favorite is in will predispose me to bet the dog because it's a favorite. At tracks that have CSR's or another type of speed rating, if there's a dog with consistently higher speed ratings and it's the favorite, I figure that it's a legitimate favorite.
If the track doesn't have speed or class ratings, I look at the times. Once in a while, you'll come across a dog with all sub-thirty finishes in a race where none of the other dogs has all sub-thirties. Another similar situation is when a dog's every line has a finish time that is faster than any other dogs' line, in the race. If that dog gets the lead, it can win for fun.
Favorites that I won't bet on are dogs that don't seem to have anything to differentiate them from the other dogs in the race. If I can't see a clear class advantage, speed advantage, post position bias that has really benefitted the dog before or something that makes the dog stand out, I'll sit out the race and let the crowd back the dog for whatever reasons they've chosen to make it the favorite.
Sometimes when I do this, the dog wins and I never do figure out why the crowd liked it so much. I just chalk it up to my usual cluelessness at times. I tend to miss the obvious once in a while. Everyone does. But other times, when the dog runs last, I smile and congratulate myself for not being taken in by the fact that the crowd thought the dog was hot stuff for no reason. Or for all the wrong reasons, maybe.
Sometimes, people will jump on a dog when the only reason it's at low odds is because someone who thought they knew a reason why the dog should come in plunked down a bunch of money on it. Then the crowd noticed it, thought the "smart money" was onto something and followed along like lemmings, until the dog was a 4/5 favorite. I can't tell smart money from stupid money, so I don't follow other people's betting patterns.
My advice, when it comes to favorites, is to treat them like any other dog in the race. Consider them a contender and weigh up their good points and bad points. If they look much better than the other dogs, don't bet against them just to be oppositional. If you don't think you'll make money with win and place on them, but you really think they'll come in, play them in exotics.
There's an old saying, "Favorites are favorites for a reason." True, but the smart handicapper makes sure that the reason is a good one, before going to the window to vote for the favorite with his or her wallet.