There are many things to consider when placing a bet on horse racing but undoubtedly the most important thing is the ‘going’ description. The going is the description of the state of the course’s ground. This is measured by the clerk of the course where the racing will take place, who provides a daily update weeks before every single race meeting.
Punters should be aware of all the different conditions and understand the going descriptions and check for related patterns favoured by horses and trainers keeping a close eye on the weather throughout the day of racing itself (heavy rain can completely change the ground very quickly and hugely affect your selections winning chances).
Here is my quick guide to the going for Beth.bet subscribers:
HEAVY – The ground is as soft as it is going to get, the times are slow, and stamina always comes to the fore. These conditions are commonplace in the winter in the UK, and certain horses handle it a lot better than others.
SOFT – Testing conditions, very wet underfoot and again stamina is important.
GOOD TO SOFT – Heading towards decent ground but still on the easy side. This often happens in the summer months on the flat, when the clerks of the course are watering, and the ground can become a little bit looser on top.
GOOD – This is the optimum condition that produces the best racing surface and fair results. All trainers say their horses want good ground ideally some handle deeper or more testing ground, others prefer it quicker.
GOOD TO FIRM – This is the faster side of good – Ideal conditions for flat racing in the summer with clean run races and speed coming to the fore.
FIRM/HARD – This is very rare these days going back to the 70s and 80s this type of going was commonplace in the summer months. However, good watering systems have now prevented this at most tracks (only really still a factor at Bath racecourse because they have no watering system). Firm ground tends to lead to small uncompetitive racing and is not particularly popular with punters or bookmakers alike.
Certain horses and trainers thrive at different times of the year, with trainers like Venetia Williams over jumps always doing well in the winter months when the ground rides soft or heavy. Her horses are often French bred who are relentless gallopers that stay really well. Venetia traditionally misses the whole of the summer completely (barely having a runner for several months during the jumping season between May and September).
Other trainers like Tom George, Paul Webber and Charlie Longsdon conversely tend to do a lot better in the spring/summer months (when the ground returns to good having been soft for most of the winter. Their horses tend to do their best work on the bridle, travelling strongly and are more about speed than stamina. There can be similar trends on the flat where in the winter all-weather surfaces sees specialist trainers like David Evans do particularly well, whereas in the summer months on good fast turf they will tend to struggle to make an impact. Understanding these patterns can be crucial to your punting outcomes and make all the difference with the shift of seasons. When the ground changes, the form can change very rapidly and there are often big priced unconsidered results.
It’s not a myth that some horses prefer certain courses – ‘Horses for Courses’ is a well-known saying in horse racing, but it is one that actually rings true. If you look at the Cheltenham Festival for example, several horses come back again and again to run really well in the handicaps there. The unique conditions, the big fields, the fast pace, the soft ground suits certain horses and not others. This is also true for meetings like Aintree, which is a flat track usually run on better ground in April, and again here, specialists come to the fore. It is well worth looking out for horses who have winning course and distance form when considering your bets.
Remember to check the early morning weather report and the British Horseracing Association’s website to get the latest course going and most importantly – on the flat in particular – watch the early races to check for any going bias. Very often there is a better strip of ground that astute jockeys who will have walked the course before racing will know about. This is often related to the draw on the flat, for example, at Pontefract, low numbers (unless the ground gets soft), are usually at an advantage with the far rail always favoured. Conversely at Lingfield it can pay to be drawn high with the stands rail in the summer months always much better and a huge tactical advantage. Courses like Chester where it is well known that a low draw is a huge advantage and if you are drawn wide there, particularly in Sprints it is virtually impossible to win.
Combining your knowledge of form and the going is a really important factor when considering your betting whatever the season. Assessing the going changes and relating the information to the tracks, horses and trainers is an essential part of any punters pre meeting homework. Understanding such biases can be critical to your winning statistics and used alongside beth.bet can help make your betting profitable over time.