14 January 2022
By Roger Kennedy
How the weather can change a race – Ways the weather can impact your horserace
There are many factors that determine whether a horse will be victorious in a race or not, from form and fitness through to staying power and type of course, but does the weather have an impact as well? Have a look below and find out!
Course to course
Some courses use a more robust surface for their races, from rubber and wax to sand, which are less impacted by the weather than turf. This ‘all-weather’ surface has less issues, but courses that use grass will find themselves massively affected by the weather, with too much rain and not enough.
When there is too little rain the course becomes hard, ‘good’ or ‘firm’. This means that the turf has less give in it under the horse’s hoof, which may help some horses and hurt others. For those who prefer a less giving course summer is generally the best time to race.
When there is too much rain the course becomes soft, ‘good to soft’ or ‘heavy’. This means there is more give, and will suit horses that don’t like a hard course, usually found in the winter months.
For a turf course heavy rain and frost can cause the race to be abandoned altogether, while an all-weather course would most likely be fine. However, a large amount of snow or heavy fog would prevent most every race from taking place, so it is clear that weather does have a big impact regardless of the course.
Understanding the weather also means understanding the ‘Going’, the condition of the course from heavy through to hard. This determination is made several days before the race, but it is updated regularly and is something that anyone placing a bet should check out. When selecting which horse you think will win, you will see data on how that horse has performed at different times and which going it prefers. A horse that usually does well on a heavy course is likely to do so again, and so on. This clearly has a big impact on the race and the odds of each horse winning. For instance, Darwin racing odds would be shorter for a horse with a strong preference for the going on the day of the Great Northern Darwin Cup, than one that favoured the opposite.
Wind can also have an impact on a race, with a strong head wind negatively affecting those in front while those behind can manage to gain a bit of shelter and therefore save some energy. This can mean that the frontrunner might be disadvantaged. Alternatively, a strong tail wind can give horses that extra push to fly over the course and break records if it is timed right.
As you can see it is clear that the weather has a huge impact on horseracing and is certainly a key factor to consider before choosing a winner of any race on any given day. In countries like the UK where the weather can change so quickly, it is also a good idea to regularly seek updates, as we have all set out on a sunny day only to be hit by buckets of rain! Whether your horse prefers heavy or hard going, the weather can often help decide the victor of the race.