The Impact of Weather On Horse Racing (The “Going”)

Extreme weather heavily impacts the going. It complicates — and potentially ruins — racedays for everyone involved. Yet in less extreme cases the weather may prove to be a useful variable that’s advantageous for your betting criteria.

 

Turf & Dirt Racecourses

Turf racing takes place on grass, whereas dirt racing is ran on a tougher surface typically made up of dirt and sand over the top of clay and gravel. In Europe turf racing is considered the norm and it’s heavily affected by weather conditions.

Rainfall has huge influence on UK turf racecourses. Particularly if…

  • There’s been too little rain. The turf becomes hard, meaning there’s less ‘give’ under the horse’s foot than usual. As the horse runs through these conditions, every step is increasingly harder underfoot. In such circumstances the hardened turf replicates the conditions of a dirt course, and the horses accustomed to regular turf often struggle as a consequence.
  • Rain has been falling consistently. The turf course is soft or yielding, meaning that the horses will sink deeper into the track than usual. Therefore the horse requires much more energy to run fast — and endurance becomes a bigger factor than speed of the horse. Essentially these conditions make it hard for “explosive” speed horses to fully meet their full potential.

Dirt remains the same in dry spells, but is also impacted by wet weather. When dirt gets wet it becomes very sloppy and horses regularly have mud kicked back into their faces from the horses ahead, leading to unexpected race results. The grip on the track is also much more slippery; the wet dirt track creates similar conditions to a turf track. For some horses this is a favourable change — but generally speaking, most won’t be accustomed to it.

Given the difference rainfall makes to courses, the weather conditions are well worth your consideration as a bettor. Viewing a breakdown of how horses have performed on different conditions will highlight strengths and weakness. This will shape your outlook and opinion of what horses you determine to be “value”.

 

Cancelled Races

If a turf track is too wet, or otherwise deemed “unraceable”, then race is cancelled to protect both the horses and the race surface. Sometimes the race is moved to a dirt track.

Fog and snow render any course unraceable, no matter what surface. There is little than can be done about this. Even if the track itself is clear, then there are still logistical problems in getting horses, staff and race goers to the course due to the conditions elsewhere.

Financially, cancelled meetings are bad news. Bookmakers can’t take bets — which not only impacts their taking, but also the levy (funding for racing). Jockeys usually don’t get paid on cancelled races. And race courses still have to pay their staff unless prior arrangements were made for any unforeseeable circumstances.

The cancellations have a huge impact on trainers, too. Take snow and frost as an example:

  • Water: it’s difficult to supply fresh water for the horses when it’s icy or frozen over
  • Cold: extra work and effort is required to feed the horses outside
  • Fixtures: the schedules are in disarray. Trainers will be trying to get several runners in the same race, making it more competitive than usual.

Fitness levels decrease too:

  • Less workouts: trainers cannot provide horses with a full workout due to the impractical icy conditions
  • Horse walkers overcrowded: horse walkers are in heavy demand, so less time and focus is put into individual horses.

 

Using “The Going” In Betting

The going is graded based on the weather. You may decide to use it to check how a horse previously performed under certain conditions e.g. very wet, muddy going.

For any selection you make, try to match the current going with the horse’s past performance. If it performed consistently well under specific weather conditions, then it’s likely to keep doing so. And if you’re uncertain then I recommend betting on the driest track possible; this tends to yield the most consistent results.

It’s worth noting that track conditions don’t always remain consistent throughout a raceday. This is particularly true of the UK & Ireland where the weather can suddenly, and unpredictably, turn. So the bets you place early on won’t necessarily hold the same value at the time of the race.


Your bets can lose value if weather drastically turns against you. Just imagine betting on all dry track horses — then it suddenly pours down with rain.


But even if you accurately forecast changes in the weather, there are still knock-on effects from rainfall that contribute to the unpredictability of a race, such as:

  • The track getting chewed up throughout the day. Even the weather settles down hours prior to the race, your selected horse may run slower than you anticipated if previous races damaged the surface. This is most influential in late evening races, where several races preceded it.
  • Mud splattering in the faces of horses. Jockeys can use mud to their advantage by encouraging their horse to the front of the field. Mud is splattered behind — which discourages competing horses from running to their full potential, falling back to avoid distress. 

Most Patterns Have Already Been Discovered

Like every item of your betting criteria, patterns you find in the going may already be factored into the odds. Take my analogy of buying a property:


You identify a house that has exceptionally good transport links, a larger-than-average garden and ultra-modern decor compared to similar homes in the local area. Does that mean it’s worth buying?


No, not necessarily.

These attributes are almost always factored into the price. In buying this house you’re not getting value for money; you’re spending more and getting more, effectively.

In racing you’ll notice that some horses perform better under certain conditions. Naturally, some will have an advantage over their competitors for today’s going. But to put this to knowledge to good use you must focus on identifying odds which do not reflect the advantage/disadvantage you’ve identified.

As you look for value, utilise various sources of data — such as accurate weather forecasts. Try to preempt movements in the odds before they adjust. Better yet, to support your selections, use as many different items of criteria as possible and determine which ones have the most influence.

Looking for horse racing tips? Check out my review of the best sports betting tipsters.

 


Further Reading:

The Accuracy & Significance Of SP Odds

What Causes Pre-race Market Movements?

Horse Pedigree — Breeding Winners Scientifically

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