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Greyhound Handicapping With False Favorites

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Eb Netr

March 6th, 2013

Sometimes, it's easy to see why a dog is the favorite in a race. It has much better speed, class, form or all of the above than the other dogs. But at other times, I look at a race and can't for the life of me figure out why a dog is at less than even odds, when it doesn't look that much better than the other dogs to me. That's when I pore over my program to try to figure out why it's such a hit with the crowd.

If I can't find a good reason to play it, I either pass on the race or look for another dog that has more value if it hits the board. I know that just obstinately betting against a big favorite doesn't pay off in the long run. Sometimes the crowd does know better than I do and the dog will come in and I still won't have figured out why it was at such low odds. I've had that happen more than once.

But, sometimes, someone just plunks down a big chunk of money on a dog because of reasons of their own that have nothing to do with handicapping. For instance, someone is on Twitter and sees a tweet from a trainer or someone who knows a trainer - or says they do - saying that a dog can't lose at Southland in the 7th. Pretty soon, the tweet is retweeted to hundreds of people who play the dogs and the odds on the dog plunge from 7-2 to 3-5.

The dog may or may not be a good bet, but if the morning line oddsmaker thought it should be at odds of 7-2, I'd be very hesitant to back it at 3-5. Which leads me to another facet of betting on favorites, whether false or not. I never bet a dog at odds of less than 6-5 at two minutes before post time. I prefer odds no lower than 2-1, but if I really think a dog has a good chance of winning a race, I'll back it at slightly lower odds.

False favorites can be dogs that are dropping down two classes. People think that, this time, they'll "wake up" and win for fun over dogs with less class. Sometimes that happens. But, more often, it doesn't. Dogs drop down for a reason. Since we can't know what the reason is, my theory is that it's better to play a dropper at more than even odds, not less than even odds. I've also noticed that these are the odds that a lot of droppers come in at.

They drop down and run some races. The crowd bets them at very short odds, but they don't come in. Then, when the bettors have gone off them, they win at decent odds. Following droppers until they show some sign of life is a good way to make money. I look for anything that tells me that they're coming back into form.

A gain of a couple of lengths in the stretch. A finish not too far off the leader, even if it's with less than third place. A good break, when the dog hasn't been breaking recently. These are all signs that a dog is perking up and might win or hit the board next time out. But if you don't see any of these signs and the dog is at ridiculous odds, don't play it. It's a false favorite and playing these types of dogs will drain your bank account very quickly.

Another common false favorite situation is when there's a dog coming off a very impressive win. It might have won by double digit lengths or won at long odds. When I see a dog like this as the morning line favorite, I do a little digging. First of all, I look at its last races to see if it's ever had a big win like this. If it hasn't, and its lines look mediocre, I can't get too excited about its chances of pulling off another big win today. Sure, it's not impossible for dogs to repeat big wins, but if they're not in the habit of winning in the first place, it's unlikely that they'll do it back to back.

Favorites with a reason for being the favorites are a good bet. Favorites win about a third of all races. Just playing them in every race won't give you a positive ROI, but you have to consider them when you handicap each race. Just be on the lookout for false favorites, and give them a miss. Betting with the crowd is only a good thing if they're onto a good thing.
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