Getting Started in Racing

The origin of the greyhound is deeply rooted in ancient history. In fact, murals and paintings of dogs strikingly similar to today’s greyhound existed more than 4,000 years ago.   From the beginning, the greyhound was held in high regard in the Middle East and throughout Europe. Pictures of the early greyhound can be found etched on walls of ancient Egyptian tombs and Pharaohs rated them first among all animals as both companions and hunters.

The Arabs so admired the physical attributes and speed of the greyhound that it was the only dog permitted to share their tents and ride atop their camels. In early Arabian culture, the birth of a greyhound ranked second only in importance to the birth of a son.

In Persia, Rome and Greece, the greyhound enjoyed similar stature and is the only canine mentioned in the Bible in Proverbs 30:29-31.

It is documented that the greyhound arrived in England over 3,500 years ago. Their link with nobility was established in 1014 when King Canute of England enacted the Forest Laws, which stated that only noblemen could own and hunt with greyhounds. In fact, greyhound racing in England was first established for the English nobility and could not be enjoyed by other citizens.

The Forest Laws were abolished in the 1500s by Queen Elizabeth I, who later initiated the first final rules of greyhound coursing (the pursuit of hares), thus officially inaugurating the “Sport of Queens”.

Greyhounds were introduced to America in the 1800’s to help farmers control the jackrabbits population. It was not long before competitions of greyhound racing were conducted by the surrounding farmers. This proved to be both an exciting event for the local population but also proved that the greyhound loved the chase and excitement of racing. Greyhounds are “sight hounds”, meaning they instinctively chase by movement, not scent or hearing.

The Racing Greyhound

Greyhound track racing, as we know it today, began with Owen Patrick Smith’s invention of a mechanical lure around 1912, which made racing around a circular track possible. The first circular track opened in 1919 in Emeryville, California. It helped pave the way for the development of the greyhound racing industry in America.

Racing greyhounds are registered with the National Greyhound Association (NGA) and  differ  from greyhounds registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC). Racing greyhounds are selectively bred for performance, while AKC greyhounds are bred for show. Since racing greyhounds are bred for athletic ability and racing temperament, the integrity of the breed has remained intact. This is in contrast to “show” dogs, which are often produced based on popular public opinion, resulting in physical and temperamental defects in other breeds.

The Racetracks

If the greyhound runs in Texas, there are 3 tracks: Gulf Greyhound Park in LaMarque, Gulf Coast Racing, formerly Corpus Christi Greyhound Racetrack in Corpus Christi (presently simulcasting only) and Valley Race Park in Harlingen, per the Texas Racing Act Sec. 6.14 (b)&(c), only 3 licenses may be issued for greyhound tracks and they must be located only in counties that have populations of over 190,000 and that include all of part of an island that borders the Gulf of Mexico.

The Texas Rules of Racing outline the standards  for all the racetracks. The racetracks consist of the plant, racetrack and kennel compound.  The majority of races are run at 5/16 mile; there is often one 3/8 mile race per program, and occasionally 3/16 races are run.

The starting boxes accommodate a maximum of 8 dogs in individual boxes. The lure system the greyhounds chase is what is called an Aldritt lure, named for its manufacturer,  and is standard at most greyhound tracks across the country.

The Kennels

The backside consists of kennel buildings, sprint paths and other requirements built to standards as outlined in the Rules of Racing Sections 309.301-309.316.

A racetrack association enters into a contract with each kennel owner, which sets out the terms, conditions and responsibilities of each party, track specific guidelines and any other relevant item. TRC Rule Sec. 309.351.

Per TRC Rule Sec. 309.352, at least 50% of the kennels must be wholly owned by Texas residents. Each kennel must also maintain a certain percentage of Texas-bred greyhounds (Rules Sec. 311.102(d) depending upon the number of years the kennel has been contracted with the track association.

Unique to Texas, and a beneficial rule for the greyhound business, is the Dismissal of Kennel clause (Rules Sec. 309.353) that prevents tracks from arbitrarily canceling a kennel contract.  Reasons  for dismissal  are stated in the TRC Rules and are based on objective standards. Maintenance of an “active list” is generally a part of the kennel contract. The active list is the number of greyhounds available for use by the racing secretary in composing the race cards.

A kennel owner may operate his own kennel, or hire a trainer. The kennel  owner may own his own greyhounds, or lease them. If a greyhound is leased, the lease agreement is filed with the racing secretary. The lease contract sets out the terms of the lease, including the owner’s percentage of purse winnings. Under the Texas Racing Act Sec. 6. ll(b), the owner’s percentage may not be less than 35%. Other terms and conditions may be in the lease, but typically the owner is not responsible for any of the greyhound’s expenses during the term of the lease. The owner’s share of the purse is paid directly to him by the racing association on a weekly basis.

The Races

When an unraced greyhound reaches the racetrack, it first gets acclimated to its new surroundings through unofficial schoolings.  The greyhound is then entered into official schooling races for the judges and trainer to determine its ability to compete.  After successfully completing official schooling races, the greyhound is put on the “active” list with the racing  secretary. Following  is an explanation of the entry and grading  systems.

Drawing Races 101, and the Grading System, in a nutshell

When a patron buys a program at Gulf Greyhound Park, they can rest assured that many people take pride in knowing that the information inside is accurate and painstakingly assembled. Many rules and regulations are closely adhered to when the racing secretary draws the upcoming race cards. The Texas Racing Commission Judges closely monitor the draw process to make sure that all rules are followed closely.

Many things must be considered before structuring and drawing the races.  How many T races ( the T race will be explained later) have been drawn for the week (only eight are allotted per week by TxRC rules).  Are there any stakes qualifiers or championships in the upcoming week?  How many distance races are in the box? How will  we distributed the different grades and distances in the structure of the race card itself? Proper distribution of grades and distances is important for many reasons; for instance, lower grade races are generally harder to handicap, so they make the perfect staple in a carryover jackpot wager.  After these and other items are considered, the draw is performed with all the greyhounds on the active list.

The active list consists of greyhounds qualified and deemed ready to run by the trainers of the contract kennels.  When a greyhound is “put on,” they stay on the active list until the trainer takes him/her off, she is scratched, or a Judge’s order comes down to take her off, so essentially, barring any trouble, a greyhound could remain active for their full racing career, with the potential of being drawn into a race twice a week.

The upcoming race card is structured by the racing secretary and drawn, usually, two or three days in advance.  Each greyhound is entered into a computer software program specifically programmed to assist the racing secretary, and additionally represented on a 3″x 5″ index card and kept in an active file.  Each one of these cards has the greyhounds individual information such as, breed line, gender, date ran, finish position, time, etc.  These cards are sorted in a box by grade, distance, and date last ran. By rule, these greyhounds must be drawn by date preference.  For example, if a Grade B race is drawn and there are dates from February 1, January 31, and January 30 in the box, then the greyhounds that last ran on January 30 must be used before those greyhounds that ran on January 31 or February 1st.

After all of the races are drawn out by hand, they are entered into the software where random post-positions are drawn by the computer.  When all of the grades, distances, and names are entered and randomized, an initial set of galley proofs are printed and then checked for accuracy.  After the Racing Secretary deems the programs ready for printing, they’re sent to the print shop, newspapers, and website for distribution.

 The Grading System 

When the first time patron arrives at Gulf Greyhound Park and looks at the racing program, it can be a bit overwhelming; however, knowledge and preparation can take away the intimidation factor. First, the knowledge one will need to read the racing program is listed on the inside cover and labeled as “How to Read a Program.” Do not overlook this essential information; it may be the difference between winning and losing. Secondly, once the knowledge of how to read the program is stored into memory, the best way to assure oneself will cash tickets is to prepare early. Go over the program before you get to the track and know what to expect. I hope that the text that follows will help the readers understand the most important part of handicapping, the grading system.

The grades  are a road  map of where that particular  greyhound  has been  class wise.  For example, if you see a greyhound that is drawn into a grade C race, and that greyhound has dropped two grades from A, then that should ring a bell in your mind.  The first thing, that one must consider, is the greyhound in question not only won a grade C race in the past, but it has also at least won a B too!  This greyhound is the class of the race, and the handicapper should give it serious consideration.

Many questions are asked on how the grading system actually works.  It is complicated and rather hard to explain but here is the easy part: advancing in grade. A greyhound winning a grade M advances to J. After winning a J he would advance to C, and then to B, A, and AA right up the grading ladder.  As a greyhound struggles in a certain grade, it is lowered in grade by a different means. The descent of a greyhound back down the grading ladder is a little bit different and tougher to explain.  A greyhound must run a 3′ or better in its last three consecutive starts, or the said greyhound must run better that one 3rd in its last four consecutive starts.  This is true in grade AA, A, B, C, or the greyhound drops to the next lower grade. When a C drops down in class, it goes to D. No greyhound can ever drop to grade J. Grade J is for Maiden winners only! Hopefully, with all of this information, you are not confused.  If you are, please go to our Contact Us page and call one of our Directors and they will be happy to answer any questions for you.

In grade D, if the greyhound  does not run 4th or better in four consecutive starts, then the greyhound is considered “graded off.” The greyhound must then be removed from the active list and re-qualify. If this greyhound grades-off again for a second time he or she again must re-qualify again; however, when returning to the active list, the greyhound must run a 4th or better in two consecutive starts, or becomes ineligible for the remainder of the racing season.

Grade J is somewhat like grade D in the fact that the greyhound must run a 4th or better in four consecutive starts. If the racer does not run a 4th or better, then the athlete drops to D and has to abide by the rules of grade D.

A Maiden or grade M is a puppy. These are greyhounds under two years of age that have never won an official race. If the puppy wins then they go to grade J, but if they don’t do so well, then they have to also abide by their own set of rules.  These rules are generally a bit more forgiving (they are just puppies!). If the puppy does not run in the first four spots in six consecutive starts then it must school and re-qualify to run official. After the pup re-qualifies then he or she has two more starts to run a 4th or better, and if this does not happen, the greyhound will be ruled off for the remainder of the season.

If you have deciphered the above rhetoric, then we can move on to the next lesson. What is a grade S and grade T? A grade S is a stakes race, and there is added money being paid to the kennel, so in most cases the class in these races is very good. Usually the best of the best compete in stakes races such as the Texas Round-up, March Mania, and so on! Therefore, if you see a greyhound with an S on its line then you should consider it as AA+. And lastly, a grade T race is a race made up by the Racing Secretary, and these races, in most cases, are mixed grades and usually from the 660-yard distance, but are not limited to such. The only boundaries set forth for a T race is that only eight races T’s can run per week.

We hope this will clear up any questions that you may have on the grading system. As confusing as it may seem at times, it is a very good system, and it works to match the greyhounds up in the fairest way.  All states have different but similar grading systems. They may vary, but all grading systems aim to give the gamblers the best shot at handicapping a race.

Estimated Cost



Purses paid by Texas tracks are calculated as percentages of 7 components:

  1. Live handle
  2. Interstate Export
  3. Intrastate Export
  4. Interstate Import
  5. TGA Cross-species
    1. Interstate Import horse
    2. Interstate Import horse over $10M

These percentages are set by the Texas Racing Act or contract. Unlike horse racing, greyhound purses are determined weekly based on a point system. The benefit to this method is that greyhound tracks never have under or over-payments on purses. The disadvantage is the inability for kennel owners to gauge potential earnings, as the point value will fluctuate depending upon the handle and the number of points each week.

The track pays purses weekly on a “per point” basis, with the number of points set by grade and finish.  The higher the grade of race, the more points awarded. The value per point is dependent upon the handle and the grade mix of races that week.  For instance, a top grade AA race would pay 7 points for a win multiplied by the value per point that week.  A grade race win pays 5 points, a win pays 4 points, etc. Points are awarded on placing first through fourth in each race. On average, about 1,000-1,100 points  are awarded each week.  The racing secretary also needs to work with the greyhound inventory available in setting the grade level of racing each week.

Effect of Number of Performances on Point Value

On average, barring health issues, a greyhound will race twice a week, approximately 100 races per year.  A reduced number of races each week, or running more lower-grade races (which have lesser point values) will reduce the weekly points available, which increases the point value (assuming handle is not affected).  On the other hand, the grade mix affects the quality of the racing product, which affects handle. Higher grade races typically handle more wagering dollars. Reduced performances also decrease opportunities to race, so while the point value may become higher, a greyhound doesn’t get enough starts to earn more. The greyhound also cannot advance as quickly in grade.

If performances are increased, the racing secretary and the kennels must ensure that there is a high enough “active” list to fill the races. The number of points awarded will increase, but the value per point may drop if handle does not increase as well. However, the greyhound will have adequate starts and opportunities to advance in grade.

In addition to these considerations, the Rules of Racing must also be followed, as explained in Jim Ebbs’ summary. All of these factors are taken into consideration when the racing secretary sets the races, which obviously can be a tricky balance.

Effect of Handle on Point Value

Since handle is generated from the above 7 categories, an increase in any of them will increase purses.  All of them except the TGA cross species is  generated directly by each track, depending upon how  much each greyhound track exports and imports and the live on-track handle. If the number of points remains relatively constant, the point value then fluctuates due to handle.

TGA Cross-Species 

Each week, the Texas horse tracks pay to the TGA 5.5% of their handle on out-of-state greyhound tracks (the intra-state purses are paid directly to each greyhound track). The TGA subtracts its administrative fee and allocates the remainder to purses for the 3 greyhound tracks. The original formula for allocation was based on the relative horse simulcast handle at the greyhound tracks in order to “repay” each for the probable drop in greyhound handle due to wagering on horse simulcasts at greyhound tracks and to replenish, by the same factors (horse simulcast handle), the reduced purses created by the adjustment to the same-species simulcast wagering at the greyhound tracks under the Global Cross-Species Simulcasting Agreement (Global).

The standard TGA contract for same-species simulcast at each greyhound track is 4%; however, under the Global, this number is adjusted annually to a lower number based on relative cross-species handle. The TGA formula attempts to balance this reduction. Over the past few years, the only difference in the allocation calculation has been adjustments to the allocation when Valley is not running live, at which time Valley gives up a portion of its share to Gulf and Corpus.

The Global agreement expires on December 31, of each year and prior to its expiration, the agreement will be renegotiated to ensure that its intent has been fulfilled.