All weather racing makes up a decent proportion of the flat racing on offer these days so it makes sense to know as much as possible about all weather racing. All weather racing takes place on an artificial surface and it is sometimes referred to as racing on sand because of the nature of the surface.
All weather racing takes place all year round but is more commonly associated with the winter, it is the only form of flat racing to take place in the winter months whilst the jumps season is in full flow.
The Different Courses
The most common venues you are going to see all weather racing at in the UK are Lingfield, Kempton, Southwell and Wolverhampton whilst there is also an all weather course in Ireland at Dundalk. It is worth noting that not all racing at Lingfield, Kempton and Southwell takes place on their all weather tracks, all three have a turf jumps course whilst Lingfield and Southwell also have a flat course on turf.
Form can be pretty reliable across the all weather tracks but they all have their differences, some more than others, and this means you can’t necessarily rely on the same results being produced at each track. Lingfield, Kempton and Wolverhampton all have fairly similar surfaces made of polytrack whilst Southwell remains a fibresand surface so you’ll often find some horses flourish at Southwell whilst others fail to give their running. Fibresand is usually deeper than polytrack and it is often said that soft ground form translates well at that venue and whilst that can be true it is misleading to assume that is always the case.
Horses For Courses
The all weather tracks also have slightly different layouts which mean some horses are always more suited to certain all weather tracks than others.
Lygeton Lad is a bit of an all weather legend as he won many all weather races and relatively few races on the turf. Lygeton Lad’s highest ever all weather rating was 105 yet his highest ever turf rating was just 75. His record shows just how much difference courses and surfaces can make to a horse:
Starts 30 Wins 3 2nds 2 3rds 3 Win rate 10% Place rate 26.6%
Starts 2 Wins 0 2nds 0 3rds 0 Win rate 0% Place rate 0 %
Starts 10 Wins 1 2nds 0 3rds 0 Win rate 10% Place rate 10%
Starts 36 Wins 9 2nds 5 3rds 3 Win rate 25% Place rate 47.2%
The reason you can get horses who specialise at just one all weather track is the many differences between them. We’ve already mentioned the fact that all the all weather tracks don’t have the same surface but that’s not the only thing that differs as the table below shows:
As you can see Lingfield offers a completely different test to Kempton and although most horses are pretty versatile and can run well on most surfaces you can see why certain horses might do well at one of the venues and not another. Never assume a horse will replicate a run at one all weather course at a different all weather course.
We’ve established that the courses can produce different results to each other, some times hugely different results and sometimes very subtle differences. Some of the best value in all weather races can be gained in comparing horses’ records between the tracks and backing them to either improve or decline when switching all weather course. Forgiving a poor run first run at Lingfield when a horse is returning to Wolverhampton where he has run well before or backing a horse returning to Lingfield (where he has done all his winning) after a solid third at Kempton can be good strategies.
Generally you want to be drawn low at all weather courses and nearly every race is round a bend. Most all weather races have smaller field sizes though and there aren’t a huge number of race with double figure fields so in most races you won’t have to consider the draw bias in all races.
In bigger fields a high draw can be a disadvantage over a variety of trips, the draw bias can often be underestimated at 10f at Lingfield for example. Races over 7f can also have a very strong draw bias but in some races you may not want to be too low drawn either, a low drawn hold up horse in a big field might get stuck on the rail and fail to get a run which is why it is often better to be drawn 4 rather than 1.
These tracks may be all weather but that doesn’t mean the weather doesn’t affect them. On very hot or very cold days the surface can be affected and can start to favour front runners or hold up horses, depending on the conditions. Other factors such as how many times the course has been ploughed can impact this and if plenty of front runners are winning on a particular day or if the hold up performers seem advantaged it can pay to start backing the most likely winners from the favoured run styles.
Sometimes you may fancy a horse to run well on the all weather based on it’s turf form but you aren’t sure if the horse will translate that form. You can always check the sire’s record of producing all weather winners compared to turf winners and although it’s no guarantee, it can be a major pointer to a horse’s impending performance.
Class of Race
Most races on the all weather tend to be class 4 or below and it is not uncommon for some horses to run up streaks on the all weather. Always pay attention to the class of the race though as many horses’ streaks will come to an end when they step up in class and they are higher in the weight AND facing better horses. Getting beat 2 lengths in a class 2 handicap on the all weather is often better form than winning a class 4 handicap and the horse that got beat won’t have gone up in the handicap either.