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Wet tracks in horse racing

So here's part of a letter from Antony:

Just a quick question which I know hasn't a definitive answer - what do you do with wet tracks with regards to selections:

a) Ignore the track condition
b) Assess the runners ability on wet tracks based on prior runs.

Good question that deserves a good answer so here's the best I've got and it's the answer that suits the staking plan I use - a)

Oh, you want more? You want to know why? Okay, well this may take a bit so hope you've got a minute. This is one of the most over-rated aspects of form assessment - of course, in my opinion. I was going to write humble opinion but I then realised how silly that would be.

I think it's over-rated because frankly, just because a horse has won in the wet before, what difference does that make? If it has won on a wet track, maybe it got lucky and simply found a better part of a sloppy track to race on.

Maybe the jockey displayed extra skill in finding that better part of the track? So what do we have here? A horse that every man and his dog whispers "this one can handle the wet!" - (Cue course announcer: "started $2.20 favourite and ran unplaced")

Can it handle the track? You know for sure?

Really the man or woman to trust in this whole exercise is the trainer. He / she is obviously a horseman / horse woman (God I hate this political correctness!) of some ability or they wouldn't be doing the job they're doing and they work these horses on good tracks and wet tracks every day of the year.

Wouldn't you reckon that they, of all people, would know whether a horse performs reasonably well on a wet surface. They watch it every day - not just on race days like we armchair experts.That's why I guess many do scratch the horses they're responsible for when the tracks are rain affected. The ones that remain, we can assume the trainers think they can handle the soft slippery tracks or simply don't know.

From what I've observed the ability of a horse to handle these conditions is a learned behaviour - the same as some horses don't like going in to those cold hard steel barriers without a barrier blanket. All habit. All things from the past that play in to the present - not that much different from humans really.

So here's a little test - let's run our computer programme through the month of January's results - 1.1.13 to 31.1.13 - and let's tell this magic software we are looking only for horses that are running on a slow or heavy track, we are looking only for horses that have won at least one race (so we're eliminating maidens), and we're looking only for horses that have NEVER EVER run a place on rain affected going.

Results? The programme highlighted 178 runners in 41 races in this exact category and the strike rate per race was 48.8% for a win and 82.9% for a place. (Naturally there was more than one runner in most race cases so profit on turnover was minus 19.5%). Wow - this may be the start of an off beat new methodology?

Now, where would you like to go from there?

If I were using just one selection methodology that over time had shown a reasonable % of favour to those that have displayed ability (or lack of it) on wet tracks, I would definitely take note and adjust my betting accordingly. If, as I do, you are taking the what I call "supermarket approach" to selection, I take no notice of it all all, confident that in the long term, the multi-method selections will even out any disadvantage.

If I'm wrong, well so be it. The fullness of time will point out the error of my ways and I'll change. Until then - wet tracks - hurrrumph!

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