How to Understand the Going in Horse Racing

Sunday 7 February 2021

horse racing card - going

When you look at a horse racing card, one of the first things you will see at the top of the card will be the going. This is essentially telling you the state of the ground that the horses will run on.

You may wonder why this is important if you are new to horse racing, but the fact is that the going has a huge impact on the outcome of a race. The reason is because different horses will run differently on the types of ground we have, some are better on softer ground, others are better when the going is firmer.

The Scale of Going

Here is the scale that racecourses use when describing the going, starting with the quickest ground and going down to the worst ground.

  • Firm
  • Good to firm
  • Good
  • Good to soft
  • Soft
  • Heavy

These are used to describe the track, though depending on drainage issues, parts of the track may be different to others.

For example, a track could be described as soft, heavy in places. This means the general going is soft, but parts of the track are heavy. This could be because a track is sloped, and where rain runs off and settles at the bottom of a hill, is where the heavy patches are.

Generally speaking, you are more likely to see firm or good to firm in summer, when we have less rain, and soft or heavy in winter when the weather is bad. Tracks try to avoid firm ground, so if we have a lot of hot weather, tracks will water the course to try and keep the ground good to firm.

How to Use the Going When Placing a Bet

There are many variables with betting on horse racing, so you need to try and cover as many bases as possible when picking your selections. The going is certainly one of them, especially if you are looking at horses that have a strong preference for a particular type of going.

Here is a great example to show this:

A horse has ran five times so far during the season. Three of those have come on good to firm ground, while two have come on soft ground. On the occasions he has ran on soft, the horse has disappointed, while he has won twice on good to firm ground.

If one of those good to firm wins was last time out, the horse would be towards the head of the betting for his next run, possibly even favourite. However, if the ground is soft, because you have looked into the going properly, you know that the horse will struggle, even though he won last time out and is favourite. You can avoid this favourite and look elsewhere.

Another example is this, the horse is running on good to firm, but has disappointed on his last two starts, which both came on soft ground. Because of those two disappointing runs, the horse is a big price on his next start. However, that shouldn’t put you off, because you have seen that based on form, the good to firm ground for this race will suit far more than the soft ground he has ran on previously. The horse could be a big price because of those runs, giving you great value on your bet.

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