Racetrack Surfaces

To succeed at EZ Horse Betting you must educate yourself on a variety of factors. One of these are the surfaces on which horses compete. Some horses specialize in competing on dirt, grass, or artificial surfaces. Other horses do well on all of them.

Horseracing on Dirt

The standard for many years in American horseracing has been the dirt track. All major racetracks in the United States have either a dirt track or artificial surface.

In many cases, dirt is actually a misnomer. The composition of the track is often a sandy loam which is designed to provide cushion. Belmont Park in New York is actually nicknamed Big Sandy because of its surface.


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Dirt tracks can often be a mixture of soils. It is also noteworthy that the great majority of American races are ran on dirt. On a ten-race card in North America, seven or more of the events are typically contested on dirt. Races on a grass surface are comparatively rare.

Dirt tracks are especially affected by weather. The track can become hard in the brutal heat or a quagmire when it rains. These weather conditions can affect the footing of the horses, the speed at which they travel, and a horse’s preferred running style.

If you attend live racing, you’ll often see water trucks in between races putting water on the track during the hot summer. There will also be harrows which level the track between races and remove the divots left by horses’ hooves.

Horseracing on Grass

In contrast to American racing, racing in Europe is primarily contested in grass tracks. In America, competing on grass is called turf racing.

You might find this strange, but grass is actually a horse’s natural habitat. Many fans of American racing believe that it is dirt because most of the races there are ran on dirt. Not true. From birth, a horse matures on grass. They run on it, sleep on it, and even graze on it!

Strange, then, that some American racehorses do not like the surface for racing purposes. As a general rule, a horse that does well on a grass track is a turf specialist. It is somewhat rare to find horses which excel on both grass and dirt tracks.

The best turf tracks like those at DelMar grow the grass high. It can be almost as high as the horse’s knees. Some tracks prefer to keep the grass cut shorter. As a handicapper, you must pay attention to how different grass tracks produce different race times.

It should also be mentioned that speed figures on turf tracks are manufactured. In other words, the figure makers must create the figure intuitively. Speed figures on the dirt tend to be more reliable because they are produced according to a specific formula.

Artificial Surfaces

In the mid 2000’s a concern over the well-being of racehorses inspired the creation of artificial surfaces. It was believed that these surfaces were less stressful on the legs and joints of horses.

A thoroughbred racehorse is a fragile animal. The bone structure of a racehorse contains many small bones and parts like the sesamoid. The fetlock in particular is susceptible to horrific injury. Comparable to the human ankle, the fetlock is tasked with supporting the weight of a horse as it runs. One need only to review the tragic breakdown of Ruffian to see how stress from running can be dangerous to a horse.

Polytrack and Cushion Track were two types of artificial surfaces introduced because racing officials believed they were safer. These tracks were installed in California and other locations to replace dirt tracks. The hope was that fewer horses would suffer injuries during races.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case in all racing circuits. In California, constant problems with the surfaces caused them to be replaced again with dirt. It may be best to say that there simply isn’t sufficient data yet to support or refute artificial surfaces as safer.

If you would like to watch and wager on horses that compete on all types of surfaces, you can create an account with one of our recommended racebooks. It only takes a few minutes to sign up and you can receive promotions, bonuses, free past performances, and more. Check our Bovada racebook review, Twinspires review or even our Betamerica review. All great choice if you are in the US. 5Dimes review for folks anywhere!


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