The greyhound is a noble creature, held in high regard for more than 4,000 years. Etching on the walls of Egyptian tombs show that ancient Pharaohs valued them above all animals and even most humans, allowing them to share their tents and be transported on their camels. Later, the cultures of Greece, Rome, and Persia would highly value the greyhound, too.
It is believed that the first greyhounds were brought to England about 3,500 years ago, but not until the 16th century were they groomed for any form of racing. Queen Elizabeth I herself formulated the initial rules for “coursing,” a sport using lures to guide the dogs around a competitive course. It soon became known as the “Sport of Queens.”
In the 19th century, greyhounds were exported to America and Australia, where coursing events and wagering on them soon followed. In 1868, the Australians added a twist to the competitions by using wallabies as “bait” instead of lures—a practice that did not catch on. In 1876, straight-course racing was introduced in the London suburb of Hendon, but it, too, proved unpopular.
It was not until 1912, that a successful mechanical “hare” was introduced. Credit for the invention goes to American Owen Patrick Smith, and by 1916 having the dogs chase it around a circular or oval track became the standard for Greyhound racing as it known today.
Such tracks were soon established around the U.K., too, at Wimbledon, Hove, Monmore, Belle View, Romford, and Walthamstow, to name just a few of the better known ones. With dozens of race meetings to wager on each day, Greyhound racing became a staple of high street bookmakers.
Thanks to broadcasts by Sky Sports, live greyhound racing has found its way into millions of homes during the past decade. Betting is especially heavy when the major events are on television, such as the race nights of the annual Greyhound Derby and the Greyhound St Ledger.
The majority of bets are outright, backing a dog to win the race. The types of markets for Greyhound racing are quite similar to those for horse racing, including each-way bets as well as forecast, trifecta, and superfecta wagers, picking the top 2, 3, or 4 finishers in order. With just six runners in each race, only a limited number of results are possible. Some bookmakers accept place only bets, but typically at very short odds.
Another type of wager that is popular for greyhound racing is “trap betting.” The term “trap” refers to the confining enclosure from which the dog bursts forth at the start of the race. Lower numbered traps are toward the inside rail of the track and higher numbers to the outside. A bet can be placed on the trap number of the winning dog, and many believe that slow, wet tracks favour the number one and two traps.
Handicappers can spend a lot of time studying the dogs prior to a racing, taking into account post position, running style, early speed, age, weight, and recent results. Among these, age is of high importance, as most dogs reach their racing prime when they are two years old, and bitches at age three. Greyhounds that have run well recently are favoured over rested animals, which may be recovering from injury or illness.
Some other tips for greyhounds betting include backing the best breaker or closer, wagering on heavier entrants when the track is wet, and following the money—i.e., taking a stake on any runner that is backed heavily just prior to the start of a race. The conventional wisdom is that favourable information has been obtained that was not known when the starting prices were set.
One other bit of useful advice is to concentrate betting on the easiest races to handicap and ignore the rest. It is difficult to keep up with which dogs are returning from long layoffs, arriving from a long distance, and other factors that can affect the running on race day. Without jockeys to guide them, it is all up to the animal to find the finish line first, and up to the bettor to know what the likelihood is of that happening.