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Understanding Racing Track Conditions In Australian Thoroughbred Horse Racing

The terminology for track conditions vary from country to country. In Australia it’s more commonly termed “track rating”, and lets punters know the exact track conditions. These notifications are sent out all throughout a race meeting so everyone involved has real time information on the current state of the race track surface.

Most Australian thoroughbred horse racing takes place on turf, although there are a few regional dirt tracks. Group 1 races are almost all on turf, which definitely experiences different track conditions to soil or sand.

When it comes to successful punting, track conditions can play one of the most vital roles there is in determining the likely race winner. Some horses only do well on really dry, hard tracks, others softer tracks, and then there are the mud larks who just love racing in the rain on wet and sloshy surfaces.

Horse racing is made up of many variables, such as jockeys, trainers, race distances, recent form, the age of the horse, the quality of the field in a given race and much more. The track rating will always play a pivotal role in any serious punter’s armoury of statistics and information when attempting to pick a race winner.

As an example, if it was forecast to be raining and a heavy track for this year’s Melbourne Cup race, you would need to re-evaluate all 24 Melbourne Cup 2019 horses to see which ones have previously performed well on a heavy track and over what distances.

The Melbourne Cup is one of the longest races in Australia at 3200 metres. Most horses that compete the race are stayers, but have any of them recently raced on a wet track over a distance comparable to the Cup and fared well? Not necessarily won their race, but overall performed well over a longer distance on a soft and muddy surface.

The condition of the track surface truly can make all the difference. A champion on a dry track might very well come last on a heavy surface and vice versa.

In Australia, aside from forecasts and projections days out, on the day of the race meeting officials will inspect the track and give it a rating. Throughout the day, if conditions change, this rating will be periodically updated so everybody is informed in real time.

The day could start with a downpour and a heavy race track, but as the afternoon wears on, the sun shines and dries out the track. Obviously the track rating needs to be updated to reflect this new information.

Let’s now take a look at Australia’s official track ratings for racecourses throughout the country.

Track Ratings

Firm 1 – This is the hardest of hard race tracks. Firm 1 indicates a very dry and hard surface, likely with not a lot of grass coverage.
Firm 2 – Once again, with this rating you have a very dry and hard track. The only real difference between Firm 2 and Firm 1 is that a Firm 2 rated track has more grass on it, softening and cushioning the surface just a little.
Good 3 – This rating indicates a very favourable track that offers nice dry conditions but excellent grass coverage and good cushioning for the horses.
Good 4 – Really spongy grass is the indicator of a Good 4 rating. While still quite dry and firm, the track is getting a little softer due to the thickness and sponginess of the grass.
Soft 5 Now we are starting to get into the softer tracks. It’s not necessarily an indication of a damp track, but one that is a little on the soft side.
Soft 6Here’s where we get into the ratings for tracks containing moisture. This type of track is generally very grassy and has probably received a recent rain shower.
Soft 7 – This rating applies to a race track that is definitely wet from rain and likely to chop out.
Heavy 8 – This is definitely rain affected, causing horses’ hooves to sink into the surface.
Heavy 9 – Now this track is very wet and has suffered some heavy downpours. This kind of track is definitely slow and sluggish.
Heavy 10 – Soaking wet would be the way to describe the heaviest track conditions. Any wetter and racing will likely be cancelled.

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