The Greyhound Trainer’s Paradox
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Educating and advocating for the SPORT of Greyhound Racing!
© Copyright 2019 KeepGreyhoundsRacing.org & Dennis McKeon
It goes something like this:
“When your greyhounds are racing well, it’s because you have good dogs. When your greyhounds are racing poorly, it’s because they have a bad trainer”.
When we get right down to it, greyhound trainers and baseball managers have this in common. At times they may not get quite enough credit when the “team” is firing on all cylinders, and sometimes, they can receive too much of the blame, when things are not going as smoothly as they might.
The fact of the matter is, that no one can make a greyhound with only grade D talent into one with grade A talent, no matter how good a trainer they are, or may believe themselves to be. However, some trainers can turn a grade A talent into one who scuffles just to stay on the card.
Now, it needs to be said that not all trainers, at a given racetrack, are playing on a precisely level field. There are kennels whose greyhounds, across the board, have more talent than others’. The trainer's job is to maximize the talent he/she has under his/her control, at whatever level that might be.
The notorious "Peter Principle" posits, that in our corporate meritocracy, sooner or later, the “upwardly mobile” will rise to the level of their own incompetence. In a very real way, this also applies to greyhounds.
For all but the precious elite, sooner or later a greyhound will rise to the level of their own incompetence---a level where they are unable to compete successfully.
That is how the grading system basically works, with slightly varying exceptions, from state to state, and from racetrack to racetrack. If you win a race, you move up one grade. If you finish out of the money in three consecutive races, you drop down a grade.
Kennels of greyhounds tend to perform in waves of biorhythm. When they are in a flow cycle, they win races, and go up in grade. Once they have reached the grade level within which they are unable to successfully compete, they will drop down a grade or two, until they find their rhythm once again, or until the ebb cycle subsides.
That being the case, the kennel is said to be “hot” or “flying”, and the trainer is the toast of the clubhouse. Inevitably---remember the greyhound Peter Principle---their greyhounds reach the level of their own incompetence. The kennel then “cools off”, as the upwardly mobile greyhounds of last week, become the “downwardly peripatetic” greyhounds of the moment. And the trainer becomes a cold potato on the dinner plate of the high rollers.
The vast majority of greyhounds, after all, are what we term "graders"---that is, greyhounds whose careers entail going up and down the grade ladder, winning, and then dropping down a grade or two, then winning again, and maybe again, and so forth and so on.
Greyhounds, as noted, tend to perform in biorhythmic cycles, 20-28 days "on" form, and then 20-28 days "off" form. The higher "class" a greyhound possesses, the longer are their "on form" cycles, and the shorter are their "off form" cycles.
Good trainers manage these cycles well---they get to the root of "off form" performance, and take corrective actions to coax a return to "on form"---and then maximize the dogs efficacy at that stage.
Form players---that is, gamblers who observe form cycles---know that greyhounds have a greater than 50% chance of winning a race, the next race after a win, in all grades below top grade at a given track. So a greyhound who drops into grade D, and then wins that grade, has a better than 50% chance of winning grade C in its very next race..
In greyhound racing, the top 4 finishers in an 8-dog race, all get paid. So the raw odds of winning money in a greyhound race, are even-up. After a representative sampling of races, if the trainer has a less than 50% "in the money" record, his/her greyhounds are either overmatched, or the trainers are doing something, or several things, wrong. At that point, adjustments might be made, and some things the trainer is doing---or not doing—could be in need of review, revision and/or correction.
If the trainer has an above 50% "in the money" record, they and their greyhounds are performing above their opportunities. If they are (also) winning races at a 15% or more clip, they are performing at a very high level.
The economics of racing are such, that poor trainers (and breeders) are exposed, and often weeded out, systematically. If you don’t do right by your dogs, you won't be competitive. And if you're not competitive, you can't possibly meet the crushing expenses that demand attention. And when a kennel owner can't pay the feed bill on time, the trainer is usually the one who is held responsible.
Likewise, owners who have invested thousands of dollars in flesh-and-blood racing prospects, are not likely to support a kennel that apparently hires inept help. The expenses in running a racing (or breeding) operation are just that staggering.
All other things being about equal, happy, content, stress-free, and well looked-after greyhounds, will outperform their opportunities, and other greyhounds who are less so.