Track Condition refers to the state of the ground that the races are held on (also called the “Going.”)

Race clubs in Australia use of a 10-point rating scale to describe the state of the track.

CategoryScaleDescription
FIRM1A dry hard track
FIRM2A firm track
GOOD3Track with good grass coverage and cushion
GOOD4Track with some give in it
SOFT5Track with a reasonable amount of give in it
SOFT6Moist but not badly affected track
SOFT7More rain-affected track that will chop out
HEAVY8Rain affected track that horses will get into
HEAVY9Wet track getting into a squelchy area
HEAVY10Heaviest category track, very wet, towards saturation

Assessing the form when wet tracks are involved for either today’s race or in past runs can be a problematic process filled with a high degree of uncertainty. Some horses produce their best on dry ground, some need wet ground, while others are versatile and can perform effectively on all surfaces.

Because of this uncertainty you will read a lot of advice that says not to bet on wet tracks. While the wet does pose an additional challenge in the selection process, there is absolutely no reason to shy away from betting as sensible analysis can still reveal some terrific betting opportunities.

Statistical research across a broad range of racing parameters shows consistent results independent of the track condition and the betting market as a whole is no more or less accurate on wet tracks when compared to dry. If wet tracks were so problematical for punters then we certainly would not expect this to be the case.

While there is no reason to avoid betting on wet tracks, there are still some key guidelines you need to keep in mind to help stay on the right path.


Top 10 Wet Track Guidelines

1. Don’t rely on wet track statistics to assess whether a horse is capable in wet ground. A Slow and Heavy track record of 2 – 0 – 1 may show that the horse has placed once on wet ground from two starts, but if the horse was beaten 8 lengths into 3rd in a lower class race than today then you should hardly feel confident it can produce it’s best on wet ground. Consider an alternative record of three – 0 – 0, which shows no wins or places from three starts on the wet. These stats suggest that the horse might not handle the wet, but deeper investigation may reveal that it finished fourth in two of those runs beaten less than two lengths in similar or better class than today’s race. If that was the case then it’s likely that the horse can perform on wet ground. The key point to keep in mind is that things are often not what they seem, so it pays to dig a little deeper and find out what lies behind the statistics.

2. Consider the class of the race when assessing a horse’s wet track performances. Early in their career, good horses can often still win on unsuitable ground purely because they have a significant class edge over the field. However when they get to their right class level they may not be as effective on that same surface and need something more suitable to perform at their absolute best (this applies to both wet and dry tracks.) This is another reason why wet track statistics can be misleading. Many horse build a good wet track record in classes well below their true ability and don’t in fact have the wet track advantage their record suggests when racing in stronger class.

3. If there is no clear evidence to say a horse is a risk on wet ground, then assume it will handle the conditions. This may seem a little controversial as our nature is to try and avoid uncertainty or unnecessary risk and horses that are not proven on wet ground certainly fits into that category. However, it’s important to recognise that successful betting is not about finding certainty in your bets, but about the chance of horses relative to how the market prices them. The truth is that horses racing on wet ground with either no previous starts or not previous wins / places on wet win just as often and have an identical overall betting return to horses with previous wet track success. The key point is: If you like a horse and the only query is a whether it will handle the wet, then you should still bet.

4. Weight does not become more significant on wet tracks. In general, weight is overrated as an important form factor and the same applies on wet tracks. Don’t get caught in the trap of penalising horses because they are carrying a big weight on Soft or Heavy ground.

5. Be careful about using wet track form to predict performance on a dry track. Some horses can suddenly show improvement when racing on a wet track and won’t necessarily carry that form forward to their next start back on the dry. That improvement could come about because of a preference for the surface, help from track bias and / or the opposition simply fail to handle it as well. Any of these factors make it unlikely the horse will perform as well back on dry so always looks for recent dry track form and take a balanced view. The opposite also applies if a horse performed a little below its recent best when racing on the wet and returns to the dry today. It could easily bounce back to its best form.

6. Do not promote a horse above its exposed ability because of a good wet track record. Great wet track form is one thing, but each horse still only has a given level of ability. Well exposed horses that don’t have the overall talent to win a race rarely win, even if they have a superior wet track record.

7. Barriers are of far less importance than usual on wet tracks. In many cases, it can be an advantage to draw and race wide on a wet track where the going is better. The market typically overvalues inside barriers, particularly on wet tracks so don’t shy away from betting your fancy just because it’s drawn wide.

8. Distance increases are no more or less significant on wet tracks. There’s a natural tendency to assume that a sharp distance increase from one run to the next combined with the difficulty of running on a wet track might make it tougher than usual for a horse to win. There is no evidence to support this. A study of races up to 2000m where fancied horses ($10 or less) were rising 150m or more in distance from their last start showed no difference in strike rate or profit when the subsequent run was on a wet track (Slow / Heavy) as opposed to a dry track (Fast / Dead). Distance changes are best assessed on a horse-by-horse basis independent of the prevailing track condition.

9. Don’t always assume that a poor run on the wet was caused by failure to handle the track condition. There may have been other explanations such as luck in running, an injury or the fact that the horse was generally in poor form and would not have been competitive even if the race was on suitable ground.

10. Breeding can often provide a clue to help sway your opinion one way or another. Some sires are known to produce horses that handle wet ground while others seem to produce horses that struggle in the wet.

  • For example, when you analyse Hinchinbrook’s progeny that rated a genuine winning chance in the market up to $10, those on Soft / Heavy ground have a 14% SR and -38% POT. While those on Firm / Good have a 22.7% SR and -1.7% POT.  There are numerous free web sites that show wet track sire statistics.
  • Remember though that there are always exceptions to the rule and breeding alone will not guarantee performance. It’s purely one piece of information that could be useful, especially if you are uncertain about a horse on one or more factors.

Conclusion

While many punters shy away from betting on wet tracks, astute players are aware of the uncertainly but also understand the dynamics of the market and still profit by following sensible guidelines. If you can get past that uncertainty yourself and follow the guidelines mentioned above, then wet track betting can also become a profitable part of your own betting action each year.


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