Marathon Greyhound Racing- a Test of Speed and Stamina

.The standard distance for a marathon race involving greyhounds is 770 yards, or 2,310 feet. The greyhound marathon is run in about 44 seconds, and is a test of stamina and speed as one might suspect. Not run today as frequently as in years past, the greyhound marathon is popular with the patrons of the various pari-mutuel facilities that they are run at. Longer than the 3/8ths of a mile distance, but with a correspondingly longer run from the starting box into the first turn, the greyhound marathon requires a dog that can hold up over the longer distance and still have the ability to flash its speed during the race.
The greyhound marathon used to be run much, much more than it is today, especially at the Miami tracks like Flagler, Hollywood, and the now defunct Biscayne. Naples-Fort Myers on the western coast of Florida runs quite a few even today, but not nearly as many as in the “good old days”, when just about every other race was a 7/16ths of a mile marathon. Many tracks will feature a marathon about every other performance, but they are seldom run in a stakes format anymore except in Florida. Raynham in Massachusetts and Wheeling Downs in West Virginia will feature the occasional marathon, while Palm Beach in Florida runs a few, but over a shorter distance than the 770 yards.

Perhaps the greatest marathoner of all the greyhounds was the legendary Rocking Ship, an Irish import that dominated the distance in the 1970s. Known for his wild closing kick, Rocking Ship was a fan favorite until he met a premature end in an off the track incident that claimed his life. But in the days of Rocking Ship, there were many, many more dogs being bred to run these longer distances. Not so today, as the emphasis is now on sprinters, which do not have the endurance to hold up in a marathon. The most dominant sprinters of today would be hard pressed to even run third in a typical marathon, despite the enormous lead they would take into the backstretch, as stronger dogs would make up the ground as they headed for home.

The marathon race begins out of a starting box positioned on the upper right corner of the racing oval. The greyhounds break from this box and then immediately run down what is normally the backstretch for 5/16ths and 3/8ths contests, as they head into the first turn. Unlike a shorter 3/8ths race, the dogs will be more spread out as they separate themselves from one another heading into the first of the three turns they will have to negotiate. This spacing means there are fewer bumps and knockdowns in the first turn in a marathon than any other race, allowing the dogs to all get clean runs for the most part. As the dogs come out of this turn and down the front stretch of the track, the ones in the lead had better be strong, because the known closers are now positioning themselves to make a run at them.

During the marathon at this point, the dogs now go into their second turn, which is actually the first turn for a 5/16ths race. They have almost run a quarter of a mile, but still have 3/16ths of one before them. The dogs that have the ability to go to the front in these tests are still running strong, but as they make this turn and head down the backstretch for the second time, those that normally show some quit are beginning to falter. Unless they have dogs with similar tendencies in back of them, they will not win the race, as their stride as they head for home will not be as swift as it was in the beginning of the affair. The closers are by now on the move, and if they can weave their way through and around traffic, as they run into the far turn for the last time, they have a bead on the leaders.

As these four-legged athletes make the turn for the homestretch dash, there are usually two kinds of racers at this point in the marathon-those that are hoping the finish line comes soon and those that are gaining ground with every step. The true test of stamina is now given, to see which dog can dig down deep as they finish the marathon. The closers are vying to see which of them can pick off the front runners, and the dogs in the lead are just trying to hold on for dear life. The fact that the marathon has less bumping and depends more on a combination of speed and fortitude makes the post position of the dogs, which hole they broke out of, almost irrelevant. Post position is much more important for the early speed greyhounds competing over the marathon distance than it is to those that fly home late, as the early dogs desperately need to be in front to be able to contend throughout.

Bettors love to wager on marathons, as the races are easier to handicap. The marathon has early speed and late speed dogs, and it is often much easier to predict which are going to be near the lead in a marathon than in any other greyhound race. Once that is established, the bettor can decide which scenario will play out- the one where the frontrunners can hold on or the one where they give way to the hounds with the late foot. Marathons are frequently placed in races where there is superfecta betting, allowing for more play on this exotic wager.

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