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Wet Track Frolics, Fallacies & Fancies


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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.


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Stats are only an indicator of anything and usually don't paint a true picture - to which they allude to above at times.

Even breeding is only an indicator. Many horses don't run to breed and relying on that is what many punters will do - so often looking outside that, will provide the advantage.

As for point 7, I think they are as close to irrelevant as you can get regardless of track condition. The biggest hurdle to overcome there is the jockey, many of them will ride differently (and negatively) because of the barrier. I make much more off horses with supposedly bad barriers than those with good ones - because the value has increased markedly on the supposedly bad barriers due to the price change the barrier causes.

And to point 2 - I ignore class of race 100%. So whilst they go on about winning early in a career, class of race is not to be confused with performance in race - it still comes down to ability, not class of race. Confusing the two is where a horse will start at evens after a 5th in a G2 against a horse that ran superior running 7th in a maiden. Class of race is just an indicator, and performance of horse is a far better indicator of ability.

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Thought you might make an appearance Marty. I take no note of recorded class, weights, barrier draws etc. I agree that individual performance is the ultimate factor. Many take note of these factors, often when there is insufficient runs to make a determination as to it's possible performance. Your point 7 is valid. I'm hoping those that use these stats start to think about how they use these them. I like a horse with a couple of close up finishes on a wet track going off at value against a supposed wet tracker with 2 wins from 3 starts etc that everybody will be on and very likely under value. I have even backed horses that have no starts on wet tracks if I like them. I'm still working on determining individual performances and pace. Defining...refining...

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I'm just trying to entice people to challenge the way they think about these things as well. I back horses on wet tracks that haven't run on them. Also horses that are racing over a distance they haven't raced over, and as mentioned, I love backing horses drawn in a position that is supposedly a negative.

In the world of punting, stats are used so heavily - but most of them are not worth a lot more than a dart combined with a dartboard.

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