Gone to the Dogs? If it is SKY televised Open-Racing it’s probably not a bad idea!
In the eyes of most, dog racing is horse racing’s poor relation.
It evokes images of old men with cloth caps clutching a polystyrene cup full of tea whilst stood in a ramshackled antiquated concrete stepped grandstand cheering home their fancy which they had backed in old-fashioned shillings, bobs and pence.
Horse racing meanwhile, pomp and ceremony, Champagne and strawberries, top-hats and tails.
To a certain degree there is some truth to the perceptions but make no mistake the betting ring at a dog track is a far more vibrant place than a number of betting rings at Royal Ascot where requests for “£2.50 each-way” on a 2/1 shot are commonplace.
Bookmaker’s off-course turnover on modern day greyhound racing may also surprise. It is enormous and because it is a very straightforward product, namely six runners in each race (where trap numbers invariably replace names) which self-promotes forecasts and tricasts, it is very popular amongst the men with satchels or, more pertinently, organisations with licences and servers in Gibraltar.
The Bookmakers Afternoon Greyhound Service (BAGS), understandably better known by its acronym BAGS, is the staple diet of betting shops.
In this modern era BAGS tracks provide live racing from 11am with two tracks, racing before an on-course audience which you could count on two hands, providing alternating live action every seven or eight minutes.
Generally one or two further meetings are staged in the afternoon to supplement live horseracing while yet more meetings appear on in-shop TV screens during the late afternoon to see punters, the ones with any money left, into the evening and the 9.30pm shop closing.
Seemingly, unbeknown to the vast majority of in-shop punters, the quality of the average race on display is relatively poor. It matters none, the racing is what punters enjoy and BAGS are officials happy with: Tightly graded, competitive.
SP over-rounds are also pleasing to the BAGS organisation and their clients, the off-course bookmakers. 135 percent seems to be the figure on-course bookmakers are directed to trade and return SP’s to. Sometimes they can be higher, occasionally lower.
In horseracing the over-round is normally around three-percent per-runner so a six-runner horse race would be expected to be returned at 118 percent. You can see why dog racing features so prominently in betting shops.
Beyond the prohibitive percentages it is hard identifying winners not alone making a profit on BAGS racing. One suspects racing mangers have a stern directive from BAGS which must be adhered to.
It would explain why odds-on favourites are as rare as a snowflake in summertime and greyhounds making their racing debut, who have the ability to show considerable improvement on their form, are as rare as a well-done steak in a Parisian restaurant.
Alas making money from betting on BAGS racing is not easy. Disciplined punters who would price up their own tissue to 100 percent would find few reasons to place many bets.
Live dog racing on sky
Thankfully high-profile ‘open races’, races for greyhounds above the top grade at most tracks, do come to the rescue and in 2015 they are commonplace on SKY TV screens.
Competitions such as the Arc, Golden Jacket, Springbok, St Leger, Regency and the candle on the cake, the Greyhound Derby with its £250,000 first prize, all feature on SKY’s live broadcast roster.
Greyhounds who contest these competitions are of the highest calibre with connections writing several zeros on their cheques when making purchases. Resultantly they are chasing big prize-money and often like to place a sizeable bet.
For their sakes and ours – the better-informed punter trying to win a crust – each and every major betting firm prices-up these races and competitions at least 12 hours before the bunny meets the starting boxes and what’s more they have been known to take a serious bet.
The ability to shop around for both ante-post competition and individual race prices amongst upwards of a dozen firms means races can often be backed at over-rounds as low as 102 percent (with many of the firms offering Best odds guaranteed). Additionally Betfair sees sizeable turnover and even the spread firm Sporting-Index gets involved.
It puts a whole new perspective on dog racing as a betting medium. It is a sport that needs to be taken seriously as the margins can be very small.
Now dog racing may be an acquired taste but, like playing golf, once you partake a few times it can become all consuming.
Finding the Form
In this modern era a plethora of form and news is at a punters fingertips and, with race cards compiled long in advance of race-day, up to a full week when it comes to competition finals, there is plenty of time to mull over the merits of each runner.
www.bagsracing.com does, in addition to the hint in its name, provide all race-cards and form for SKY televised races. It also features video replays of main events.
www.racingpost.com/greyhounds is another one-stop URL for more of the same.
While www.gbgb.org.uk is an excellent data-base offering all form for all greyhounds in training.
Once you have found all the form you need the all-important thing is meriting its worth.
The complete beginner will need to accept that greyhounds are habitual. If they race wide out on the tack they will always have that running style, they will never become a railer and vice-versa.
Similarly, albeit this is more so to do with fast and slow twitch muscles, dogs who show blistering early speed will always do so, and stamina-laden fast finishers will always finish with a flourish.
Naturally there is plenty to learn.
Possibly the simplest starting point is understanding race times from one track to another. A top class winning run at Romford (400 metres) can be completed in 23.80sec, at Wimbledon (480 metres) 28.30sec and at Nottingham (500 metres) 28.85sec.
To put it into perspective a grader who races before the BAGS cameras may win a race clocking 1.5sec slower. With a length representing 0.08sec in dog racing that is almost 20 lengths slower.
I digress. If a recent 24.00sec winner at Romford met a recent 29.05sec winner from Nottingham in a race at Sheffield which dog would you back?
Therein the questions start. Romford is a sprinters track, it is all about early-pace. There is a quick dash to the opening bend; those bends are tight and the run-in short. Nottingham, on the other hand, has extremely long straights and a punishing finishing stretch. …and Sheffield? It’s almost circular with a huge radius at the bends and much shorter than Nottingham’s.
And so the joy of assessing form (‘handicapping’ as they call it in the States) and deciding what price applies to each runner – something all good gamblers should do before looking at bookmakers prices – can begin.
It involves a lot of factors, primarily the likelihood of getting an uninterrupted passage, ‘a clear run’, which is directly linked to the trap draw.
The permutations are endless but with SKY televised greyhound racing offering such excellent opportunities to get betting value and with dedicated form study, greyhound racing really can be one of the most rewarding sports to bet on.