Spotlight: Off to the Races with Greyhound Facts

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Each day one of our in-house handicappers analyzes handicapping forms to create professional and insightful daily program picks for you. Our PPOD (Paydog Pick of the Day) is a daily feature unique to Greyhound Channel. Our handicappers are usually in the money with their daily PPOD and we’re pretty proud of what they do.

Did you see our PPOD for March 10th, 2016? Here’s what The Professor had to say about the race:

PPOD 3-10-16

The Professor’s PPOD picks paid for the trifecta, pretty exciting! We singled BOC’S EASY PEASY who took the lead early (had a greyt payout too). In case you missed it, here’s the race replay:

What do you get when you have a field of skilled athletes who are moving at hyperspeed to challenge each other for the win? Greyhound racing is the most exciting 30 seconds of sports out there, with the best of the best greyhound athletes challenging each other for victory.

While watching the races, have you ever stopped and wondered how exactly the greyhound came to be in this moment? It’s not as though they were born and immediately were selected to be featured in our PPOD. What’s the process for the pup during their adolescence, when they’re still learning basic commands, socialization; before the racing blanket would even fit their furry frames? When does training start and how exactly do greyhounds progress into their professional careers of racing?

 

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Our friends at Greyhound Facts offer a wealth of information on this subject. First, a brief bio on them: Greyhound Facts is a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the education of the general public by providing unbiased, honest information on racing greyhounds and track experiences. They have a well-built website brimming with information including general information, helpful resources, a blog, and photo galleries.

For our article today, we’ll be taking an excerpt from GreyhoundFacts.org’s “Off to the Races” feature, which explains the greyhound’s journey from pup to sleek greyhound.

The Start of their Professional Careers

By 15-18 months of age most of the pups are ready to move to the track and begin their professional racing careers. The training they’ve received on the farm (called finishing) is meant to prepare them for life on the track. They’ll know how to be benched and have their nails clipped, ears examined, etc. They’ll understand the basics of kennel life with turnouts, feeding schedules and training programs. Most importantly, they’ll have the basics of racing: chasing a lure, navigating the turns, holding the rail and racing with other dogs.

“Benching” is very important in the care of a racing greyhound. It is much more than just a brief “once over”. The trainer is looking for everything from muscle soreness, bruising, small cuts or sore cuticles to any fleas, ticks, etc.. They are also making sure there is no swelling of the toes or joints. Trainers usually bench the dogs the day after the race in order to catch anything that might be bothering the dog and treat it promptly and appropriately. If something more serious is suspected, such as a bone injury, the dog is taken to the vet for an x-ray.

At all stages of their life the dogs receive a great deal of attention, handling and care from the people around them. They also have a lot of opportunity for play. The reasons for this are obvious: an unhappy dog doesn’t learn quickly or well nor will it run well. A dog that isn’t used to being handled can be difficult to deal with and no one wants a kennel full of unhappy, hard to handle dogs.

Not all pups go to the same track as their littermates and the pup will meet many dogs from other farms. Once they’ve settled in and gotten acquainted with their new kennelmates and trainers, Unofficial Schooling begins.

Schooling

Unofficial Schooling takes place in the morning on the track before the day’s races. Initially the pups are hand-slipped so that the trainers can see how they are running and if they are following the lure. If that goes well they then run out of the starting box, first in pairs, working up to running in groups of four or five. This continues until the trainer feels the pup is ready for Official Schooling.

Official Schooling races are held before the main races. Most dogs run in 2-3 schooling races. These races help the trainer evaluate the dogs. Is the pup ready to move to their Maiden race and begin his career? Should the pup be moved to another track? (different level of competition, different track conditions, etc) Is more schooling necessary?

Racing

  • Schedule

Most dogs race twice a week. It they don’t, they go to the sprint path (which is approximately 500 feet long) to be exercised to keep them in race shape. Dogs who have been out with an injury and need to get back into shape will also be sprinted. Some kennels walk the dogs or take them swimming. Off-days are spent resting in their kennel, outside at turnouts, sleeping, eating, spending time in the whirlpool and being groomed. Although it varies, most kennels turn the dogs out 4-6 times per day. Each turnout can be anywhere from 30 – 90 minutes.

  • Feeding

Racing greyhounds are professional athletes and their diet reflects that. If they are not fed high quality food that meets their needs they won’t be able to perform to the best of their ability.

The meals consist of raw meat, kibble, some kind of carbohydrate (rice, pasta, etc.) and vegetables. Each trainer has their own (secret) formula regarding vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and other supplements.

  • Race Days

On race day, the dogs have their usual turnouts. After being turned out, they are carefully checked (feet, nails, ears, for soreness, etc.) and weighed. This weight is recorded in the kennel log. Some trainers rub their dogs down. They’ll have their morning snack and then rest. About an hour and half before post time of the first race, a kennel employee takes the racers to the track. Here a track employee brings them to the ginny pit where they wait until it’s race time. They are weighed (which is overseen by the track vet, a judge and other officials) and given a tag which indicates which race number they are in and the blanket they will wear. The racers must be within +/- 1.5 pounds of their set weight or they are scratched (unable to race). They may also be scratched if the vet feels they are injured or sick.

Shortly before their race, the leadouts walk the dogs and a urine sample is collected and labeled. In the paddock area, they dress the dogs (put on the racing blankets and muzzles). The dogs are walked onto the track for the post parade and then led back to the starting boxes where they’ll be put in one by one. The announcer introduces the lure, the doors open and the race is on!

After the race, the lure is stopped at the escape turn where the leadouts leash the dogs and hand them back to their trainers. The dogs are given water, cooled down (with hoses, kiddie pools or dip tanks), and the sand is cleaned off, making sure to pay special attention to the eyes and the feet. When they return to the kennels, they are turned out, fed, and rested. Win or lose, they get extra treats!

Racing Career

Once the dogs have won a Maiden Race they move to the graded races starting at Grade D. Depending on their success, they move up or down a grade. Grade A is the highest grade at most tracks although some have AA. Greyhounds may also move from track to track during their career depending on the level of competition, how well suited the track is to their running style or if it’s a seasonal track.

The journey from the pup to the hot dog wearing the #1 blanket is a transformation which requires careful training and dedication. We admire the feats performed by these athletes. We are inspired by the diligence from the trainers, kennels, owners, and handlers; the countless hours of commitment, love, training, and tireless care. By working together, the greyhound’s talent truly shines. In turn, this tenacity is reflected to the world as the proud twinkle in their human counterpart’s eyes.

At Greyhound Channel, we strive to feature honest news and information in order to promote the truth about greyhound racing. We congratulate winners and their connections, talk about industry news, spotlight trainers and kennels, and establish relationships with our customers. Above all, we love greyhounds and connecting with people who share our passion.

We thank Greyhound Facts for sharing our passion and for providing honest information. Be sure to check out their webpage for more information and check out their blog here.

 

“The Start of their Professional Careers” section is taken directly from Greyhound Facts’ website and is used with direct permission. Thank you!

Greyhound Facts is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Their mission is to provide a place to learn about all aspects of present day greyhound racing in the USA from those with hands on experience. Their network of volunteers includes people who are actively involved in the breeding, raising, training, and rehoming of these wonderful hounds, as well as those who adopt them. To find out more, visit: www.greyhoundfacts.org

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