The Impact Of Weather On Horse Racing & Racecourses

Extreme weather can wreak havoc on race days, creating a slew of challenges and potential setbacks for all involved. However, even in less severe conditions, weather can serve as a crucial variable that influences bet selection strategies.


Racecourse Surfaces: Turf vs. Dirt

Understanding the distinction between turf and dirt racecourses is crucial. Turf races unfold on grass, while dirt races take place on a firmer surface typically made of dirt, sand, clay, and gravel. While turf racing is most popular in Europe, it is significantly influenced by weather conditions, particularly rainfall.

The Impact of Rainfall on Turf Racing

Rainfall has a substantial effect on racecourses, influencing races in notable ways. Insufficient rain results in hardened turf, akin to a dirt track, posing challenges for horses accustomed to standard turf conditions. As horses traverse these hardened surfaces, each stride becomes more arduous.

Conversely, consistent rain softens the turf, creating a yielding or soft surface that demands increased endurance from horses as they sink deeper into the track. These conditions make it difficult for “explosive” horses to unleash their full potential.

The Impact of Rainfall on Dirt Tracks

Dirt tracks, resilient to dry spells, undergo significant transformations in wet weather. When saturated, dirt tracks become sloppy, hindering traction and often leading to unpredictable race outcomes.

Moreover, mud kicked up by preceding horses can disrupt performance, favouring some competitors while causing discomfort to others.

Considerations for Bettors

Given the immense impact of rainfall on racecourses, bettors should incorporate weather conditions into their analyses. Evaluating horses’ performances under various conditions can reveal strengths and weaknesses, aiding in informed bet selections and the identification of value betting opportunities.


Cancelled Races

In cases where a turf track becomes excessively wet or is deemed “unraceable,” races are often cancelled to safeguard the well-being of both horses and the integrity of the racing surface. Sometimes, to salvage the event, races may be relocated to a dirt track.

However, fog and snow present insurmountable challenges, rendering any course unfit for racing, regardless of its surface. Even if the track itself is clear, logistical problems persist — such as transporting horses, staff, and attendees to the venue.

Financially, cancelled races spell trouble for various stakeholders. Bookmakers suffer losses as they are unable to accept bets, impacting both their revenue and the racing levy. Jockeys typically go unpaid for cancelled races, while racecourse venues incur expenses despite the absence of racing (unless prior arrangements have been made for unforeseen circumstances).

The ripple effects extend to trainers, particularly in the case of snow and frost:

  • Water scarcity poses challenges in supplying horses with fresh water when surfaces are icy or frozen.
  • The cold necessitates additional efforts in feeding horses outdoors.
  • Disrupted schedules lead to heightened competition as trainers vie to enter multiple runners in the same race.

Furthermore, adverse weather conditions impede training regimens:

  • Trainers struggle to provide horses with adequate workouts due to impractical icy conditions.
  • Demand for horse walkers surges, resulting in less individualised attention and focus on each horse.


Using “The Going” In Betting

In horse racing, “the going” refers to the condition of the racing surface. It describes the state of the ground and can range from firm to soft, with variations such as good, good to firm, yielding, and heavy, among others. Rainfall has the biggest influence on the going.

The going significantly impacts how a race unfolds and can affect the performance of horses, as different horses may excel or struggle depending on the conditions. When making selections, it’s advisable to align the current track conditions with the horse’s historical performance. Consistent success under particular weather conditions suggests continued proficiency. If you’re uncertain, opting for the driest track usually leads to more reliable outcomes.

It’s important to acknowledge that track conditions can fluctuate throughout a race day, especially in regions like the UK & Ireland where weather turns unexpectedly. Therefore, bets placed early may not retain their initial value by race time.

Consider the scenario where you have been betting on horses suited to dry tracks, only to have rain pour down unexpectedly. This situation will negatively impact the value of your bets. 

Bettors should also note that even with accurate weather forecasts, rainfall can cause secondary effects that contribute to race unpredictability:

  • Track deterioration: Despite weather improvements prior to the race, previous races may have already damaged the track, affecting your selected horse’s performance. This effect is particularly pronounced in late evening races following multiple preceding events.
  • Horse visibility: Mud splattering significantly impacts race dynamics, particularly when it affects the horses’ vision. In these conditions, jockeys will strategically position their horses at the forefront of the field to gain an advantage, as competing horses hesitate or fall back to evade discomfort. This ultimately influences the performance and positions of horses participating in the race.


Most Patterns Have Already Been Discovered

Just as with any aspect of your betting strategy, trends you observe in track conditions might already be accounted for in the odds. Consider it akin to purchasing a property:

Imagine you find a house boasting excellent transport links, a spacious garden, and contemporary décor that surpasses similar homes in the neighbourhood. Does this automatically make it a wise investment?

Not necessarily.

These features are typically factored into the property’s price. In acquiring such a house, you’re not necessarily getting a bargain; rather, you’re paying a premium for the additional amenities.

Similarly, in horse racing, certain horses excel under specific conditions. Naturally, some may possess an edge over their rivals given the prevailing track conditions. However, leveraging this insight effectively requires identifying odds that fail to accurately reflect this advantage or disadvantage.

In your pursuit of value, leverage diverse sources of information, including precise weather forecasts. Anticipate shifts in the odds before they adjust, and to bolster your selections, consider a range of criteria, evaluating which ones wield the greatest influence.

Toby @ Punter2Pro
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