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Greyhound Racing

Greyhound racing tracks usually hold 15 races during a single session.

At a greyhound race, the dogs chase a lure. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
At a greyhound race, the dogs chase a lure.

Greyhound Racing

Organized greyhound racing became popular in America in the late 1800s, when farmers used the dogs to curb the jackrabbit population. In a modern greyhound race, the dogs chase a lure, typically an artificial rabbit, around an oval track. The American Greyhound Track Owners Association lists the lengths of specific tracks, which range from 330 to 990 yards long. There are currently 46 tracks in 15 states. States with greyhound racetracks include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Florida has more greyhound racetracks than any other state.

Most greyhound tracks have programs consisting of 15 races, with 8 greyhounds per race. Both adults and children are welcome at greyhound racing events; however, gambling is restricted according to the local jurisdiction's minimum age to gamble. Adults can place wagers on certain dogs or combinations of dogs to win (1st place), place (2nd place) or show (3rd place).

Greyhound Racing History

The greyhound breed first appeared on the American landscape during the middle 19th century, when farmers and ranchers imported greyhounds from England to patrol farms, protecting land and property. Recognizing the speed and instincts of the dogs, farmers made them the subjects of popular local races. As the races became more popular, greyhound tracks began to sprout up across the United States. In 1992, greyhound racing reached its peak attendance; however, in the last decade, interest in the sport has dropped by 50 percent. This waning interest is attributed to other forms of legalized gambling, as well as pressure from animal rights groups. Currently, Idaho, Maine, North Carolina, Nevada, Vermont, Virginia and Washington have banned greyhound racing.

Greyhound Dog Breeding

The goal of greyhound breeders is the production of dogs with certain standard characteristics. The Greyhound Club of America carefully delineates desirable greyhound characteristics. According to the Greyhound Club, male dogs should weigh between 60 and 75 pounds, with female dogs at 60 to 65 pounds. Greyhound coats should be short and smooth with a firm texture. Tails are expected to be long and tapered with an upward curve, feet are hard and close, with straight legs, and the standard neck is long and muscular with a long and narrow head. Greyhound-Data is a site that collects information about greyhounds from around the world and provides specific information about kennels that breed greyhounds and active-sires.

Grading the Greyhounds

Racing greyhounds are graded according to A, B, C, D, E and M. The Racing Secretary assigns grades for each race to ensure that greyhounds compete against other greyhounds of like ability and performance history. The lowest level of the grading system is M, for maiden, which indicates that the dog is under two years old and has never won a race. As soon as a maiden dog wins a race, or breaks its maiden, it is moved up in the grading system.

The next level is dependent on the track. Some tracks maintain a grade of J for juvenile, which allows the dog to compete against other dogs that have just won a maiden race. On other tracks, dogs are moved directly to either the E or D grade. Each win is followed by a move up on the greyhound grading system. Some tracks maintain an AA grading for the cream of the crop. If a dog fails to place at least third in four starts, the dog is moved down on the grading scale.

Betting at a Greyhound Race

There are a few things to keep in mind when wagering on a particular greyhound. The Greyhound Racing Association of America (GRA) suggests guidelines for betting on greyhounds. First, it is important to look at the age of the dog. Typically, dogs peak between two and three years old. Bettors will want to review the dog's racing history. Generally, it is best to bet on dogs that have run well in recent races. If it is raining, consider betting on a heavier dog and a dog with an inside position on the track. Watch the dogs in the paddock area prior to the race. Some people prefer to bet on a spirited dog and bet against a favorite that may appear tired. Also, look at something called the trap draw, which is the dog's position on the track. Check to see how the dog has performed in that position previously. If the dog has not performed well there, then consider placing a bet on another dog.

When greyhound-racing fans wager on a particular race, they are betting against fellow fans, not against the track. This practice is known as pari-mutuel wagering. Before placing a bet, the GRA recommends that the bettor consider the odds offer and the type of bet.

The odds offer refers to the set of all possible betting events available. The value of the odds is the risk the gambler is taking versus the odds. For example, if the odds are not good, yet information suggests that the dog is favored, the gambler is getting a good value for the investment. The type of bet refers to whether the bet is a single, double, place, show, etc. A single bet involves betting on one dog in one race, while a double refers to betting on two dogs from two different races. In a double, both dogs must win to have a successful bet. For a dog to place, it must come in first or second; to show, it must finish first, second or third.

Choosing a dog with greater risk has a bigger payout. When a high-risk dog wins a race, the odds were likely under-priced. Bets are placed by approaching a betting window before the race, stating the dollar amount of the bet, the type of bet being placed and the dog's number. For example, a person would place a bet by saying, "Five dollars to place on number eight." While many racetracks offer in-person betting windows, some racetracks offer computerized betting options.

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