A lot of grayhound fans love to watch the cream of the crop race in stakes races. Track attendance usually goes up during the qualifying races that lead up to the main event and there may even be articles in the paper or on the radio about it.
But not everyone is happy when big races come around. My friend, Woody, hates them. He says it's stupid to bet on stakes races because the favorite gets bet down to nothing and usually wins. I don't have the statistics, but he's probably right that the favorite in the biggest races wins more of the time than the favorite in most races.
After all, every dog in the stakes race has raced against the best of the best dogs and beat them to make it to the final race. Of course, to me that also means that any dog in the race is capable of beating the other dogs, given the opportunity and some luck or a little extra running room or the benefit of another dog's mistake.
But even if the winner does come in at low odds, there are other reasons to go to the dog track when there are stakes races. For one thing, the track wants to attract fans to the stakes to increase the handle, so don't be surprised if the other races on the card are better than usual also. Maybe it's just my imagination, but it seems to me that the dogs in most of the races are easier to handicap when there are stakes races. Maybe because they're dogs who run truer to form than some dogs do?
For whatever reason, I always do well in the races on the same card with the stakes races. I don't bet any differently or bet more, but I seem to go home with more money than I usually do. Maybe it's the atmosphere or the fact that there are people there who don't normally come to the dog track. Remember, pari-mutuel betting is betting against the other bettors. If the other bettors don't know how to handicap, it gives people like us the edge.
For me, in addition to the bonus of winning a little extra, stakes races mean that I get to watch superb athletes doing what they do best. Winning. The dogs really enjoy it. The fans almost all like the special quality of the events surrounding the stakes and the ceremony of acknowledging the winner. It's something out of the ordinary for the dogs and the fans and it adds some spice to life. Let's face it, we all need something a little special once in awhile. Isn't that why we go to the dog track?