Making the most of formline comments (1)

If you look at a greyhound’s formlines on the race card, you will notice that there is always a comment on how it ran in its previous races. These comments vary in quality from track to track. Some tracks include much more detail than others, and so the comments are more helpful to the punter. For example, not all tracks include a dog’s preference for following a certain line around the track. Some dogs like to stick close to the rails; others will take a middle course, or prefer to run wide. This is usually because they find that way of running best suits their size and conformation. It’s much easier for a small, light bitch to hug the rails than it is for a 35 kilo dog, on whose big frame centrifugal forces are working to force him wide as he steams into the bends. Some dogs don’t like to be crowded, and are happier when they can run on the rails or out wide, with only one dog beside them. Whatever the reason for a dog’s preferences, the punter needs to know them in order to evaluate its chances from its trap draw.

The tracks that do provide this information begin their comments with one of the following: Rails (Rls); Rails to Middle (RlsMid); Middle (Mid); Middle to Wide (MidW); or Wide (W). The tracks that omit this information may do so because they assume that a dog’s trap placement will make it obvious what line the dog prefers. Thus a dog placed in Trap 1 will inevitably be a railer, since safety requirements dictate that a railer should not run from wide traps. Up to a point this is true. However, in open races a greyhound will not always be drawn in a trap that suits it. Or, in a graded race, the grader may place a dog that prefers the rails in Trap 2. If it doesn’t say in its formlines that the dog is a railer, the punter is at a disadvantage, as he or she will be unaware that the dog, while perhaps not totally inconvenienced by Trap 2, may not show its best form when wearing the blue jacket. It needs the rails, but will have to show better early speed than the dog in the red jacket to get there before the first bend; otherwise it will have to slot in behind the red and hope to avoid trouble in running.

Similarly, a dog that likes to run wide may be placed in Trap 5, where it may find it more difficult to hold its line and so crowd with the runner in Trap 6. If you aren’t told in the comments that the dog is a naturally wide runner, you may be risking your money on a dog that isn’t well drawn. On the other hand, some dogs do like to take a middle to wide, as opposed to a wide, course. But if the formline comments don’t tell us that the dog in Trap 5 is in his favoured slot, we won’t be aware that the wide runner in Trap 6 has, as a result, a much better chance of securing a clear run.

If you are using a race card without the dogs’ line preferences in the comments, check whether a dog has an M (for Middle) or W (for Wide) after its name. To minimise trouble the track manager may give a dog a middle seed, which means that they can only run from Traps 3 or 4, or a wide seed, restricting them to Traps 5 or 6. This will give you at least a rough idea of a dog’s requirements.

The next factor to be commented upon, which all tracks include, is a greyhound’s trapping ability. It goes without saying that this is a vital part of a dog’s overall profile, and will often be decisive in the outcome of a race. The phrase ‘traps and stays’ is sometimes used to sum up a greyhound’s running style, and any dog that has these two attributes, providing that it is in form and racing in its correct grade, can never be ruled out. The trapping comments we are looking for are ‘Quick Away’ (QAw) or, even better, ‘Very Quick Away’ (VQAw). Greyhounds that can consistently break from the traps more quickly than their rivals enjoy a significant advantage in terms of securing their preferred line. By contrast, dogs that are regularly described as Slow Away (SAw) or ‘Very Slow Away’ (VSAw) are in danger of finding their favoured line blocked by the dogs in front.

That’s not to say that a slow-starting dog is always inconvenienced; it may be able to avoid bunching going on in front and, especially if it is a wide runner, come with a strong late run. But, in general, a fast starter that can maintain a good pace to the corner and has no problem in staying the trip is a safer bet. To be sure that a good trapper does have the early speed to translate his fast start into a first bend advantage, check its first bend positions in its previous formlines (that is, the dog’s position at the first, second, third and fourth bends in a four bend race), which can be found just before the dog’s final finishing position. Or a comment such as ‘Quick Away, Led 1’ will confirm that the dog’s trapping ability is backed up with good early speed.

More on formlines next month.


Some of my readers may be aware that in my day job I work with horses as an equine chiropractor. I am currently writing a book on what to look for in the racecourse paddock, as an aid to deciding which horse to back: specifically, how a horse looks physically, how it moves, how it behaves and what equipment it’s wearing. However, since my photographic skills are negligible, I need someone to take photos to illustrate the text. If that’s you, or you know someone who might be interested in such a collaboration, please get in touch via this website,, or Thanks!

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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