Wednesday, April 29

GUEST ARTICLE: Looking to Make Smart Bets? Why the Going Is So Important

Whether you're betting the Ascot or the Caulfield Cup, you want to take full advantage of every piece of information on your racing form to place the most educated bets, especially if you're wagering from home. Armchair punters can get fabulous information from the form, if they know where to look. You can rest assured that when looking at something like the Caulfield Cup results, for example, that the track going is a big factor in the outcome of the race. Here's a look at why that is and how you can use information about the going to place smarter bets.

Why the Going Is Important

The racetrack going (also known as the track rating in Australia or conditions in the US) plays a huge role in how horses perform on any given day. Most horses gravitate towards one type of track over another--the so-called "wet" or "dry trackers." While some horses love the quick surface and lack of strain associated with a dry track, others find the higher impact unpleasant.

Other horses don't like the mess that comes with a wet track. Even if they have the stamina to withstand a heavy track, they may not like getting splashed in the face or the "kickback" from horses in front of them as the track gets chewed up. While some jockeys can use this to their advantage and maneuver a horse to the lead, they may not be able to sufficiently urge on a horse who prefers to fade to the back of the field.

The going can also affect horses long-term. A horse that runs frequently on a harder track will eventually develop degenerative joint disease (arthritis). Horses that always have to work extra hard in the mud may develop tendon problems or soft tissue injuries.

Rough going makes racing difficult enough in flat races. In jumping races, it can make them downright dangerous. Regulations have become more stringent regarding shoeing to protect the horse's health. While old-style toe grabs and caulks gave more traction, they are rarely in use now.

How Track Conditions Are Recorded

A racing steward assigns a rating to the track on every race day using a specific vocabulary for the going. In the UK and Ireland, turf tracks can be rated as: hard, firm, good to firm, good, good to soft ("yielding" in Ireland), soft or heavy. The All-Weather tracks have a different rating system: fast, standard to fast, standard, standard to slow or slow.

Australia's rating system is as follows: Fast 1 (hard and dry), Good 2, Good 3, Dead 4, Dead 5, Slow 6, Slow 7, Heavy 8, Heavy 9 or Heavy 10 (very soft and wet).

The track going can be up upgraded or downgraded in the middle of a race card if the steward determines the conditions have changed.

How to Use Knowledge of the Going to Increase Your Wins

So now you know why the going is important and how it's assessed by race professionals, but how can you use that knowledge to make money? By matching horses that have historically done well in certain kinds of conditions with the going on race day.

To figure out a horse's going preference, you're going to need to do a bit of homework with whichever racing form you use. You should find a form guide that allows you to delve into any horse's past performances, which may entail purchasing a membership--well worth it if you place a few winning bets as a result.

When you look at past performances, find "race conditions" to see how your prospective bet finished in different types of going. If a horse has raced long enough, you'll probably see patterns that indicate what type of track it prefers. It's a rare horse that can do equally well in all categories of going.

From the Epsom to the Caulfield Cup to the Kentucky Derby, you want to be checking out the going and matching it to your horses' past performances. Play a little game with yourself, and look at, say, last year's Caulfield Cup results and the performance history of the field. Which horse wouldyou back? When you can start to do these retrospective wagers successfully, you'll know it's time to start putting some money down for real.

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