Blog Spotlight: George Woodill

George Woodill was meant to announce. Speaking with George, it is clear that his passion has always been announcing, and he has the resume to prove it. As Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club’s announcer, our track announcer series continues with George, talking about his start in the greyhound racing industry, his announcing history, and his favorite aspects of the industry.

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George started announcing in high school at any event he could, including pageants and sports events like basketball, volleyball, and football. During this time, George had been bitten by the announcing bug and knew that it was something he wanted to continue as a career. After his high school graduation, George was hired on as an announcer for jai alai. Within a few years, George was made Communications Director.

While George enjoyed announcing the sport that he also loved to play himself, it was only a part-time gig, so it wasn’t long before George started announcing at Seminole Greyhound Park where he could announce full-time. George worked at Seminole 3 seasons before calling their last race in 1999 when live racing would end at the greyhound racing location. During this time, George also worked at Melbourne in 1997 for a season. After Seminole Greyhound Park, George returned to announcing jai alai and, in 2013, George started announcing for Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club.

As you have probably noticed, one of the things really neat about George is that he has called all sorts of different events, including jai alai, wrestling, mixed martial arts (MMA), and greyhound racing. George mentions that the prices and gambling aspects of jai alai and greyhound racing are similar, but other than that, they are completely different worlds. Calling wrestling and MMA events is almost a different skill. With wrestling, you become a storyteller, giving the audience backstory and having more time to be as descriptive as possible.

“I truly feel all of these titles require an altered skill set. Calling the ring action, doing play by play, and telling a story is much different than just vividly describing the raw action being seen during a race or jai alai game.”

Working at Daytona Beach Kennel Club for five years now, George has experienced quite a bit at the track. One of the most memorable moments for him was when Here Comes Danny broke the track record. Not only did Here Comes Danny run an impressive race, but this was George’s first time calling a 550 track record. George has also loved announcing three of the Daytona 550 National Championships. Daytona’s 550 National Championships were an exciting annual event that George is very happy that he got to be a part of.

“Doing the race calling, on-track presentations, the pomp and pageantry, and especially the studio analysis were the experiences of a lifetime! It is always electric when there is that much riding on a 30 second event and the WORLD is watching.”

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Husker Magic’s 2015 Daytona 550 win.

Some favorite greyhounds that George has seen race over the years have been St. Petersburg Derby Lane’s Scott Free and Daytona Beach’s Here Comes Danny, Senator Hukill, Caught A Whale, and Dreaminof Bootsy. Currently, George is keeping his eye on Canaan Bengal.

“We have a youngster here, Canaan Bengal. [He’s a] on an impressive win streak and a ton of fun to watch so far.”

George’s favorite aspect of greyhound racing is the people involved in the sport, from the bettors to greyhound enthusiasts. He loves seeing the bettors reactions to each race and enjoys talking with people in the sport who truly understand greyhound racing and the amazing athletes who love to run. Of course, like anyone else involved in the industry, George dislikes seeing the few injuries that can occur and is upset with the negative attention greyhound racing receives from anti-racing groups. These frustrations arise from the fact that most of these anti-racing groups come from a perspective that lacks knowledge of the sport and the people involved in it. There has been a large push to encourage people to attend their local track kennels to gain their own opinions and behind-the-scenes look at greyhound racing to help extinguish the existing myths.

“[There is a] lack of education and understanding of the industry by the public and general media.”

While these aspects of the sport are unpleasant to deal with, the positive sides outweigh them. Nothing beats the great people involved in the greyhound racing industry, the experience of a race, and, of course, the amazing and loving greyhound athletes.

We would like to thank George Woodill for speaking with us about his announcing career and greyhound racing. One of our main goals is to promote the greyhound industry. Do you work in it or know someone who does? Would you be interested in being featured in our blog? Contact us at custserv@greyhoundchannel.com.

This Week With The Professor: Running Time a Factor?

Is the greyhound’s running time a major handicapping factor?

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Generally, no. There are a few reasons that this is not a major, or even an important factor when handicapping a race. One: The racing surface varies from one day to the next depending on weather or how the track was conditioned by track maintenance. Two: The time will be affected by how the race was run. In a race with a lot of trouble or maneuvering, the time will be slower than a race with no trouble. It is common to see a lower grade race being run faster than a higher grade race because of how the race was run. Three: Early speed dogs will generally have faster times than closers because they do not have to maneuver around dogs during the race. A common saying among top greyhound handicappers is “time is only a factor if you are catching a plane.”

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Blog Spotlight: Jim Gartland

We spoke with the National Greyhound Association’s (NGA) Executive Director, Jim Gartland, to gain further insight into the current news surrounding greyhound racing and Jim’s experiences in the industry.

Jim began a summer job in 1973 at Mile High in Denver, Colorado. Over the years, at one time or another, Jim ended up working at all tracks throughout Colorado. He also worked at Woodlands, Victory Land, Wheeling, and Shoreline Star. These locations included jobs that varied from leadout to manager, which has helped Jim to know the ins and outs of each job and the issues that those workers face.

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Jim and his wife Molli

Throughout the years, Jim owned a few litters and raced greyhounds himself. He had taken some breaks from working at the track to work at the farms and kennels, and has fostered greyhounds as well. Talking with Jim, it was clear that he really loves the dogs, which is his favorite part of working in the greyhound racing industry. He mentioned that some of his favorite times were while he was working with the puppies on a farm. Another thing Jim loves about greyhound racing is the people involved and the passion they have.

“Although everybody is very competitive and everybody wants to win, at the end of the day, they all know that they are in the game for each other.”

Jim started to become interested in taking the place of Gary Guccione at the NGA when others began telling him that he would be a great candidate for the job. Factors that helped Jim to accept the NGA Executive Director position was that he wanted to be involved in the greyhound racing industry without having to work the difficult schedules that can come from working at the track, farms, and kennels.

Currently, Jim and the NGA are working on getting everything modernized and upgraded. Another goal of the NGA is to incorporate more members, which they are hoping to do so through added options such as ambassador members for trainers, helpers, fans and adoption advocates; essentially, those that are invested in greyhound racing, but do not own greyhound racers themselves.

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NGA Hall of Fame event honoring John Boyd

With the scrutiny of the greyhound racing industry that has been brought on further by the Florida bill to end greyhound racing in the state, Jim said that there are certainly challenges with his position in the NGA. While the NGA itself was intended simply as a registry for greyhounds, they are becoming involved in the issues that arise around greyhound racing, such as the Florida bill. With it no longer being a legislative issue and something that will be decided upon by the voters, the NGA is trying to be more vocal about the realities of greyhound racing, busting the myths surrounding the sport and opening up about the actual activities that occur. The NGA is working on spreading these messages to Floridians as well as promoting them on their social media via Facebook and Twitter. The hope is that these efforts will help provide individuals with new insights into the greyhound racing industry that they previously did not have.

If the Florida bill to ban greyhound racing passes, Jim mentioned that a good portion of the tracks would probably continue through 2020, slowly phasing out racing to help with greyhound adoption and placement of the racers. Though the ban would be a very sad situation, where many jobs in the industry would be lost and many greyhounds would need to find homes, Jim said that they would continue encouraging racing elsewhere and huge efforts would be made towards ensuring all greyhounds are rehomed. A sad factor for Jim in regards to the possibility of greyhound racing declining is that greyhounds would probably no longer be bred, which would leave out a wonderful breed of dogs for people to own and love. As it stands, Jim discussed how the NGA receives calls from greyhound adoption organizations requesting more retired racers because they will have a waitlist of potential families waiting to adopt a greyhound. This is with about 95% of retired racers currently being adopted out. The remaining 5% are greyhounds that go back to the farms for breeding or retirement.

In terms of greyhound racing returning to Kansas, Jim is optimistic about the possibility. Jim said that this last legislative session was really close in votes, so he believes that they could get somewhere next time.

“There are enough people committed to it now both in the legislature and people around the state that we could probably get it done, so I’m still hopeful”

We would like to thank Jim Gartland for speaking with us about the NGA, greyhound racing, and his experiences in the industry. Make sure to follow the NGA on Facebook and Twitter to help spread the accurate news around greyhound racing. Do you work in it or know someone who does? Would you be interested in being featured in our blog? Contact us at custserv@greyhoundchannel.com.

This Week With The Professor: Does Size Matter?

Does size matter when handicapping a greyhound race?

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Generally speaking, the size or gender of a greyhound is not a factor in handicapping a race. Unlike thoroughbred racing, the female greyhounds compete on an even footing with the males. There may be times when a smaller greyhound may find their chances compromised by having larger hounds pinning them in or pushing them out, but this is not common enough to be a major factor. It has long been a belief that the top sprinters are generally in the 65-80 pound range and that the top distance greyhounds are smaller.

There is some evidence that in high stakes competition you see females winning top distance races more frequently then sprints, but using it as a major handicapping factor can be tricky. One caveat is that some greyhounds are more nervous before the races and can lose considerable weight in the “lock out” kennels where the greyhounds are kept before racing. Sometimes, these hounds have a designation of WL (weight loser) after their name. These greyhounds will generally peform better in earlier races on the program, so keep an eye out for that.

Blog Spotlight: Gary Dura

You may have remembered reading a piece of his in our Inside Lure newsletter, or perhaps you’ve read his blog or listened to his podcast. Among other things, Telegraph Herald Copy Editor in the Features Department, Gary Dura provides great greyhound racing news and information for Iowa Greyhound Park. We recently spoke with Gary to find out his story and how he became interested in the greyhound racing industry.

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From the left: Gary Dura, Jarrod Dura, Justin Dura, Jason Dura and Mary Dura. Tyler Dura is the little guy in the front.

Dubuque, Iowa, is the only place Gary has called home, having lived there since he was born. Gary’s career at the Telegraph Herald began when he needed to pay for his college education. During this time, Gary answered calls and prepared the scoreboard page copy at the Telegraph Herald. Gary, however, didn’t stop there, moving his way up through the ranks until he became a full-time sports writer. He became a copy editor for news before moving on to features, which is what Gary currently does.

“Today, I coordinate editorial material for our business magazine, work on a couple of other monthly magazines, write and edit stories, edit, proof and design feature pages for the daily paper and special projects. I also blog and record a podcast about pari-mutuel racing, and participate in other podcasts, and other duties.”

Being in the sports industry, Gary became interested in greyhound racing when Dubuque Greyhound Track was opening in 1985.

“I had a chance to look at the program. All the names and numbers were fascinating. My boss explained some of the information. I became fascinated.”

From that moment, Gary became hooked on the greyhound racing industry. One of his favorite things about covering the sport is that everyone in the industry is truly friendly and genuine. Gary explains that being around everyone, you can tell that they all love the greyhounds.

Being interested in the dogs himself, it’s no surprise that Gary’s sons have also sparked interest in the sport. Gary would often take them to the track to watch the dogs. While they were at the track, Gary would show his sons how to read the racing program and would share handicapping tips with them. When his sons were older, they got a job at the track and have worked “nearly every job at the track.” Gary’s sons’ work experiences at the track have helped launch them into other careers as well.

“Our older two [sons] were state judges. This season, our youngest is in college and is a racing secretary. Our oldest is a state judge again this year. He also has a full-time job, which he got partly because of the workplace lessons he learned at the track. Our middle son’s job won’t allow him to work at the track. Again, his time at the track taught him valuable lessons about working with people.”

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P’s Rambling – photos provided by Greyhound Data.

Over the years, Gary has seen quite a bit of amazing greyhound races that all have been quite memorable. There are two greyhounds, however, that seem to stand out the most for Gary: P’s Rambling and AJ’s Callie. P’s Rambling, being quite exceptional, was the first pup that Gary followed.

“Rambling dominated the long course, setting a track record in 1986. He moved on to continued success at other tracks. I remember one race where he had trouble at the start and basically circled the field and won going away.”

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AJ’s Callie – photo provided by Gary Dura.

AJ’s Callie also has significance for Gary because she loved the sport and was always excited to race.

“She ran during a time when there were many great dogs at the track. Even if she didn’t draw her preferred box, she always gave it her all. I remember how friendly she was when I photographed her after winning the 2015 Iowa Breeders’ Cup.”

Some other greyhounds that have left a mark for Gary include Rock A By Msmolly, Superior Product, Ms Makenna, Slatex Elvis, RF River, Mystic Winds, Do Rocky Do, Sunset Swale, Fuel’s Stargazer, and Earl of Stafford.

Thinking about his favorite greyhounds, Gary also discussed his favorite greyhound racing memory. This, however, is not an easy decision to make because there are so many aspects that Gary has enjoyed and loved. One thing that always stands out for Gary, though, is the sounds of the spectators.

“The anticipation of the race, with the noise level slowly rising. Then, the dogs burst from the starting box and the cheering starts. As they circle the track, the noise builds, then reaches a crescendo at the finish line. Moments later, there are some cheers, and some words not fit for print, as the results are posted.”

We completely understand the amazing experience that Gary describes. Not much can beat the excitement, camaraderie, and fun that comes with watching a greyhound race.

We would like to thank Gary Dura for speaking with us about his experience with the greyhound racing industry. Be sure to tune into Gary’s Off The Track podcast and blog via The Telegraph Herald for greyhound racing news. One of our main goals is to promote the greyhound industry. Do you work in it or know someone who does? Would you be interested in being featured in our blog? Contact us at custserv@greyhoundchannel.com.

This Week With The Professor: Q & A

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Today we will attempt to answer a question sent to us by Donald S. He asked, ” If a dog shows early speed in route races and drops to sprints, is he a good bet for the sprint?”

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Excellent question. Generally, I would say no, but there are exceptions. The reason that trainers run greyhounds in longer distance races are because they are either good breakers but not fast enough to get clear in sprints, or they are slow out of the box and are finishing well in sprints. Unlike in horse racing, when a dog is finishing well, it is not because they are speeding up at the end of the race, they are just keeping up their speed during the race and not getting as tired as the other dogs. For that reason, if the greyhound is showing speed in a longer race, that does not usually mean that the dog will show enough speed in a sprint, against faster dogs, to get clear. They will have to outfinish the speed dogs to compete. This does not mean that they will not do that, but their front running style in the longer race, will be different in the sprint. Also, the reason the trainer is dropping the greyhound to the sprint is important. The dog may be tired and they are trying to freshen them up a bit. It may also be a tactic to get the dog lowered a grade, along with the rest, so that when they are put back into the longer races, they will be rested and lowered in grade, to get a win. The exception to the rule is if the trainer has put the greyhound in the longer distance for a few races, to stretch them out a bit, and then puts them back into a sprint. This may drop them in grade and then they have a good chance of running well when switched back to their normal distance.

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Thank you to Donald S. for this greyt question!

Do you have a question for The Professor? Leave a comment below and you could receive a $2 wagering credit to your Greyhound Channel account if your question is featured!

Blog Spotlight: NGA’s 2018 Spring Meet

The National Greyhound Association’s 2018 Spring Meet took place the last couple of weeks in Abilene, Kansas, where we co-sponsored race 38. Finishing, in order, in our race was: COBI’S SCREWBALL, CTW VIVA VESTA, COBI’S DERRINGER, SE’S JET POWER, SAMANTHA FOX, and KENNETH BIEHLE.

We were excited to hear that FLYING WOLF PACK was recognized at the Greyhound Hall of Fame on Thursday night, April 19th, for his excellent athleticism. FLYING WOLF PACK and his team received top honors for his NGA Rural Rube award win and earning the American Greyhound Track Operator’s Association’s (AGTOA) captain of the 2017 All-America Team.

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We would like to congratulate the winners of each race during the 2018 Spring Meet.

This Week With The Professor: Early Speed vs. Late Speed

Today, we will discuss the merits of playing early speed greyhounds or late speed greyhounds. My theory is always key early speed and use late speed in the legs. The reasoning behind this is simple: “Do I want my key dog to race trouble free, or have to negotiate through the pack to win?” To illustrate this, just look at the charts of any previous day’s races.

You will notice that the greyhound who leads after the first turn makes the Quinella 75% of the time, at least. Of course, there are exceptions, maybe a late speed dog is at big odds and has a good chance to benefit on the turn. In that case, the reward may be worth the risk. The trick is finding the fastest dog to the turn in a race, and that can only be done by watching the dogs consistently and comparing their performance against the competition and each other. The strategy of consistently keying late speed hounds is risky business and may not lead to financial success.

Do you have a question for The Professor? Leave a comment below and you could receive a $2 wagering credit to your Greyhound Channel account if your question is featured!

Blog Spotlight: Jeff Mergen

With the retirement of Iowa Greyhound Park announcer TC Christianson, the track needed to find another announcer to fill his shoes. That person will be Jeff Mergen, who had spent 20 years announcing greyhound races. We recently spoke with Jeff to talk about his time announcing as he looks forward to the new season at Iowa Greyhound Park.

In 1985, Jeff earned his broadcasting degree at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. A year later, while working as a weekend sports anchor at the KDUB-TV 40 station in Dubuque, Iowa, Jeff was told that the local track was looking for announcers. Interested, Jeff tried out for the position. The first night of Jeff showing them what he had for announcing the races, he had only one eye contact in, which made it difficult for him to clearly see the hounds. The next day, Jeff returned with both contacts in place and ready to roll. It was then that he was offered the job at Dubuque Greyhound Track where he worked through the 1988 season.

After Dubuque, Jeff began announcing for Geneva Lakes Greyhound Track in Delavan, Wisconsin, for 15 years, till its closure in 2005. While at Geneva Lakes, Jeff also produced and hosted the “Geneva Lakes Racing Report” television show, showcasing the best races from each week. In 2007, Jeff went to Dairyland Greyhound Park in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to announce till the track closed a few years later in 2009. That was the last time Jeff officially called a race, but he is very excited to return to an announcing gig.

During the years that Jeff announced, he remembers some amazing standout athletes such as P’s Rambling who started at Dubuque before moving to Hollywood where he won the 1987 Flashy Sir award and was on the 1987 All-America Team. His impressive resume also includes a 15 win streak, record price in 1986, and the winner of the 1987 Hollywoodian. Another standout of Jeff’s was Klemma from Geneva Lakes Greyhound Track who won the 1990 Geneva Lakes Derby and 1991 Old Style Distance Countdown. Klemma also set the 3/8ths track record in 1991.

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P’s Rambling. Photos provided by Greyhound Data.

Though Jeff hasn’t officially announced a race in nearly ten years, he has hosted the Night at the Track event in Bristol, Wisconsin, which took place this year on March 3rd. At the event, visitors watched the Naples-Fort Myers Derby races while Jeff called them off the TV, which wasn’t easy or ideal, but it certainly got the audience excited. For Jeff, announcing the races was a seamless transition, as if his absence from announcing had never happened. This last event was perfect for getting Jeff ready for the new season at Iowa.

Jeff can’t wait to jump in and fill the spot that TC had held for so long. To become familiar with the greyhounds, Jeff plans to go over the entire list of hounds set to race at Iowa Greyhound Park. One of the things that Jeff truly loves about announcing races is how it is challenging, but also tons of fun. Despite announcing for so many years, Jeff is still always trying to improve.

“The only thing I have control over is my announcing getting better and improving. Doesn’t matter that I’ve done it for 20 years. You still have to improve and take that view point of always trying to get better, and that’s what I’m trying to do”

What a great perspective to have! We can’t wait to hear Jeff announce during the live season at Iowa Greyhound Park, beginning May 19th and continuing through November 4th. Live racing will take place on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 6:30 PM Eastern and Sunday at 2:00 PM Eastern. Make sure to tune in for exciting greyhound racing action and great announcing by Jeff.

We would like to thank Jeff Mergen for speaking with us about his time announcing greyhound races. One of our main goals is to promote the greyhound industry. Do you work in it or know someone who does? Would you be interested in being featured in our blog? Contact us at custserv@greyhoundchannel.com.

This Week With The Professor: Track Bias

Today, we will discuss “track bias.” Track bias consists mainly of two factors, both relating to the condition of the race track surface, or the configuration of the track itself. The first bias is whether the track is favoring early speed or finishers. This condition may be a consistent bias or one that fluctuates from day to day. Tracks that have a long stretch or a sprint that is longer than the normal sprint distance of 5/16 of a mile may have a tendency to favor the finishers, whereas a track that has a shorter than normal sprint or has a shorter stretch may favor early speedsters.

The other bias is whether the track favors inside or wide runners. This bias generally fluctuates from day to day and if you can decipher the bias early it can be a big advantage when wagering. To sum up, when handicapping a race, use the biases to help you gain an advantage over the other players who are not paying attention to this important factor.

Do you have a question for The Professor? Leave a comment below and you could receive a $2 wagering credit to your Greyhound Channel account if your question is featured!