The Time Test

When my attention turns to horse racing – as it often does – I’m a strong believer in the stopwatch, for both Flat and National Hunt. The clock is a weapon in the armoury that is neglected by many horse racing punters, which is why I like it. It gives a different perspective on the evaluation of performance, and throws up winners that wouldn’t have been predicted by more mainstream methods of form study. The reason that recorded racetimes are not generally considered to be a valid form of assessment for horses is the perceived difficulty in making an accurate comparison of time performances on widely varying types of racecourses and ground conditions. The ‘going allowance’ is crucial to success, and many feel that it can’t be calculated with sufficient precision. I disagree, but I’m happy for the status quo to continue, as it means that horses that stand out on the clock are not overbet, and tremendous value can be obtained. I don’t bet on horses very often, but when I do it’s the evidence of the clock that I turn to first. I have in front of me a recent all-weather card from Lingfield, where the speed ratings expert I favour pinpointed winners at 5/4, 6/1, 5/1, 3/1 and 12/1. I guarantee that no other method of form assessment would have made a case for that last one!

By contrast, the stopwatch (electronic timing really, but I like the old term) is central to form study in greyhound racing. Times are not affected, as they can be in horse racing, by jockeys riding tactical races. The traps spring open, and the genuine greyhound, so long as it can see the hare, will run as fast as it can for as long as it can. Because of the sheer quantity of races run at a greyhound track the racing office can assess the going allowance on any particular day with an acceptable degree of accuracy. Most greyhounds spend their entire career racing at one track, so time comparisons between different tracks are unnecessary.

Time is so fundamental to greyhound racing that the grading structure is entirely based on the clockings that a greyhound is capable of achieving. The only way to compare the raw ability of two dogs that haven’t raced against each other is by reference to the clock. If you are watching trials at your local track, and one dog wins his trial by half a length and another dog wins his trial by six lengths, which of the two performances was the more impressive? It’s impossible to tell without knowing the final times of the trials. It may turn out that the winner of the first trial clocked a time that was 0.80 seconds faster than the winner of the second trial, which equates to a ten length superiority. Of course, caution is advised if you are relying on trial times as a pointer to a dog’s chances in an actual race. A greyhound is much more likely to secure a clear run – and so showcase his ability – in a two or three dog trial than he is in the rough and tumble of a six dog race.

This brings us to the crux of the matter – the absolute necessity of an uninterrupted passage through the race if a dog is to reproduce its best time. A greyhound might be able to run a fast time in a lower grade against moderate opposition by breaking well and leading early, but will he be able to do so if upped in grade? Up against classier dogs he’ll find the task of seeing daylight, and so reproducing his previous time, a good deal harder. Even if he isn’t put up a grade or two, he may find himself running from a trap that hinders his chances of a clear run. Previously successful from Trap 1, he now has to try to engineer a passage from Trap 2, with a fast breaker in the red jacket making it all the more difficult for him to lead into the first bend.

As an example of how times can be affected when a dog is upgraded, I reproduce below three form lines from the career of my own happily retired greyhound, Betsy, who raced at Yarmouth under the name of Oopys Daisy:

02 Dec 2009462m45.441st3Effernogue BoxerEP,Mid+107/2A428.78
14 Dec 2009462m45.533rdGaytime AmyQAwMidBmp1+307/1A229.32
28 Dec 2009462m45.636thUllid PrinterMidCrd1-307/2A229.81

Showing good early pace in her A4 race, Betsy was able to go clear and win in a fast time for the grade. Raised two grades for her next appearance, she was fast away from the traps but the class of the dogs around her meant that her early pace wasn’t enough to avoid trouble and took a hefty bump at the first bend from which she wasn’t able to recover. A nervous bitch at the best of times, she was probably remembering her experience when reappearing, again in A2, a fortnight later. Crowding at the first bend was enough to persuade her that A2 grade wasn’t for her, and she trailed in last. She didn’t win again, even when eventually dropped to A5, running in only seven more races before she was retired. We’ll never know whether things would have turned out differently if Betsy had been raised only one grade after her win. I’m not suggesting for a moment that Betsy’s racing career is typical, but it does show that speed is heavily dependent upon the opportunity to display it without hindrance.

It took Betsy quite a long time to understand the world outside of racing kennels. I live by the sea, and on her first day with us I made the mistake of letting her off the lead on the beach. She immediately ran at full speed into the sea and was knocked over by a big wave. Subsequently she would spook at almost everything: seagulls, kites, other dogs, even the scarecrows in people’s gardens made for the annual competition to raise money for the Christmas lights. I’m happy to report that, three years later, she’s much improved!

September 2018
Focus On Poole
August 2018
Focus On Perry Barr
July 2018
Focus On Nottingham
June 2018
Focus On Newcastle
May 2018
Focus On Monmore Green
April 2018
Focus On Hove
March 2018
Focus On Doncaster
February 2018
Focus On Crayford
January 2018
Focus On Central Park
December 2017
An Index Of Previous Blog Posts
November 2017
Focus On Belle Vue
October 2017
Young Graders To Follow (2)
September 2017
Young Graders To Follow
August 2017
Getting A Clear Run
July 2017
Essential Tools For Greyhound Betting (2)
June 2017
Essential Tools For Greyhound Betting (1)
May 2017
Specialisation (2)
April 2017
Specialisation (1)
March 2017
Qualities Of The Successful Backer
February 2017
Compiling Race Ratings (2)
January 2017
Compiling Race Ratings (1)
December 2016
Racecard Comments : S - X
November 2016
Racecard Comments : M - R
October 2016
Racecard Comments : H - M
September 2016
Racecard Comments : H
August 2016
Racecard Comments : E - H
July 2016
Racecard Comments : B - D
June 2016
Racecard Comments : A - B
May 2016
Form Cycles
April 2016
Keeping An Online Formbook (3)
March 2016
Keeping An Online Formbook (2)
February 2016
Keeping An Online Formbook (1)
January 2016
The Striped jacket
December 2015
The Orange jacket
November 2015
The Black jacket
October 2015
The White jacket
September 2015
The Blue jacket
August 2015
The Red jacket
July 2015
Upgraded Dogs To Avoid
June 2015
Upgraded Dogs
May 2015
Downgraded Dogs
April 2015
Focus on Romford
March 2015
Focus on Swindon (2)
February 2015
Focus on Swindon (1)
January 2015
Exploiting Formline Comments (2)
December 2014
Exploiting Formline Comments (1)
November 2014
Greyhound Racing: Make It Pay (2)
October 2014
Greyhound Racing: Make It Pay (1)
September 2014
Greyhound Betting Expert Advice (6)
August 2014
Greyhound Betting Expert Advice (5)
July 2014
Greyhound Betting Expert Advice (4)
June 2014
Greyhound Betting Expert Advice (3)
May 2014
Greyhound Betting Expert Advice (2)
April 2014
Greyhound Betting Expert Advice (1)
March 2014
The Time Test
February 2014
Recording and Reviewing Your Bets
January 2014
What’s a "grade within a grade"? (2)
December 2013
What’s a "grade within a grade"? (1)
November 2013
Trap Draw
October 2013
Sires To Note
September 2013
Racing Post Summaries (3)
August 2013
Racing Post Summaries (2)
July 2013
Racing Post Summaries (1)
June 2013
Laying Greyhounds On The Betting Exchanges
May 2013
Spotting The Ungenuine Dog
April 2013
Compiling A List Of Greyhounds To Follow
March 2013
Specialisation (2)
February 2013
Specialisation (1)
January 2013
Winter Ground Conditions
December 2012
Front Runners v Strong Finishers
November 2012
October 2012
Identifying Improving Greyhounds
September 2012
Race Ratings (2)
August 2012
Race Ratings (1)
July 2012
Following dogs in form
June 2012
Adopting a professional approach (3)
May 2012
Adopting a professional approach (2)
April 2012
A Greyhound's Win / Lose Ratio
March 2012
Adopting a professional approach (1)
February 2012
Warning To Speed Fans
January 2012
Following Bitches After Seasonal Rest
December 2011
Early Paced Dogs
November 2011
Speed Handicapping (5) : More FAQs
October 2011
Speed Handicapping (4) : FAQs
September 2011
Speed Handicapping (3)
August 2011
Speed Handicapping (2)
July 2011
Speed Handicapping (1)
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