If you visit the Stewards’ Reports page of the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) website, the chances are that, on any day when racing takes places, you’ll come across an report that reads something like, “So-and-so, trainer of so-and-so, which was pulled up, unplaced, etc, said that so-and-so was unsuited by the heavy, soft, etc going.”
Indeed, the going or, in other words, the underfoot racing conditions, is frequently used by racehorse trainers to explain a horse why a horse below expectations, so it stands to reason that the going is a critical factor in determining the outcome of a horse race.
In the United Kingdom, going descriptions range from hard to heavy, through firm, good to firm, good, good to soft and soft. All thoroughbred racehorses have different conformations and different actions, which can be indicative of the type(s) of going on which they’re likely to reproduce their best form. Horses with a pronounced knee action, for example, hit the ground from a greater height than those with a flatter, “daisy cutter” action and may prefer going on the soft side of good.
The good news for punters, of course, is that the going preference(s) of any horse, except perhaps a lightly raced or unraced maiden, can quickly be determined by reference to its previous form. Horse racing punters who focus on horses with good recent form usually only need to satisfy themselves that their selection is capable of acting under the prevailing conditions.
However, a period of torrential rain after a prolonged dry spell, or vice versa, can often throw up a bevy of “surprise” winners and is a time for punters to exercise extreme caution or to consider “shutting up shop” until the weather becomes settled once again. As a general rule of thumb, fewer horses are suited by extreme going – “hard” and especially “heavy”, which occurs more often – than intermediate going and more anomalous results can be expected during these periods.
The going description for each meeting is provided on the race cards in national newspapers and online, but is not always correct, so for an accurate, up-to-date description visit the BHA “Racing Updates” page. The “Racing Updates” page includes not only a textual description, such as “Heavy, Soft in Places”, but also the Going Stick reading, the time at which it was taken and other useful supplementary information.