It might seem like you are over-examining things if you’re an amateur punter, but collecting information on the track that your horse will be racing on can mean the difference between a win and a bust. A racing track can have extreme variances, which means your horse can be hindered or helped depending on where most of its experience has been derived from.
The condition of a track, or track bias, is very important to betting success. A track is assessed usually in the morning prior to racing. If the weather conditions vary during the day, then the track is checked at intervals. Not only does this allow punters to determine their bets, but it also allows trainers to scratch their horses if they think the track condition will be detrimental to their performance.
The track is checked by race officials, who literally walk along the track to test it. A penetrometer – which measures soil firmness – is pushed in to the ground along the length of the track, and gives a very accurate reading. Because the rating can vary on a day when the weather is changeable, it is a good idea to check the condition, and bet, just prior to the start of the race you want to bet on. Of course, if the race you want to bet on is held on an artificial track, these ratings do not apply – a synthetic track is almost always rated as good.
|Australian track rating|
|FAST (1)||The firmest rating a racecourse can have, dry and hard. Considered by many trainers as not suitable for their horses, as injury risk is highly increased.|
|GOOD (2 or 3)||A track rated good is as its name suggests – good for racing. The weather generally needs to be clear and sunny for a track to be rated good.|
|DEAD (4 or 5)||A dead track is usually slightly spongy, but not wet. It has a little bit of give and suits most horses. It is considered to be at the ‘dead centre’ of the rating conditions.|
|SLOW (6 or 7)||A slow track will be reasonably wet, but not soaking wet. If your intended track is rated slow, then you should definitely do your homework! Some horses excel on a slow track – most do not.|
|HEAVY (8,9 or 10)||This is the track condition that requires Noah’s ark to get the horses to the finish line. In all seriousness though, the track will be sodden and very slow. As with a slow track, it is a good idea to research your horses, as some horses actually specialise in heavy track racing.|
Another aspect of track information, that is a little more confusing, is the placement of the rails. You may have heard it mentioned that the rail is out by a certain number of metres? Well, it literally refers to the distance of the inside fence on the track. You see, the rails are used to mark out the prime track position, and when the rails are in the original position – known as true – it allows an even chance for all horses to gain a good position. The best position for a horse to be in, of course, is close to the inside rail, but if the rail was never moved, the surface of the track near the inside rail would become worn and uneven. To prevent this, race clubs move the rail after it becomes worn, in order for the turf to regenerate itself (with the occasional human intervention). The horses then have fresh turf to run on close to the rail. When the rail is out, it narrows the track, so that it becomes more difficult for swoopers (horses closer to the outside rail) to gain a good position.
A final aspect of track information is the barriers. There is no doubt that barriers 1 to 5 are the best, and this is due to the close placement to the inside rail. I am not going to elaborate too much on this here (maybe in a future article?); however, I wanted to mention the fact that, regardless of track condition, rail position or barrier draw, your horse isn’t going to win if it’s a nag! Therefore, if the first five barrier stalls are filled with bad racers, then your best bet is to bet on a proven winner from an outside barrier. Then again, you could just do what some people do when sports betting, and bet based on lucky barrier (11 and 14 in the Melbourne cup, for example), a catchy named horse or even the jockey’s jersey colour – either way, good luck!