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Racing is mainly run on turf in Britain and Ireland, even though there is an increasing amount of all-weather racing on artificial surfaces.
The ground is mainly standard on sand and it takes exceptional circumstances to change the nature of the racing surface. However, turf is at the mercy of weather and particularly rain. The underfoot conditions become softer when rain falls and the ground is cut up when the horses race on the surface. When the horse hooves cause indentations there is said to be cut in the ground. When the ground is good or firm there is no cut in the ground.
The racing surface in Britain and Ireland on turf tracks is graded as follows: hard, firm, good to firm, good, good to soft, soft and heavy. All-weather surfaces are classed as fast, standard to fast, standard, standard to slow and slow. When there is a great deal of rain the turf racing surface gets softer and when the weather is dry and warm the surface gets firmer. Most horses are ground-dependent so some are more suited to soft going and others produce their best performances on good going.
A horse’s suitability to a surface is dependent on its racing action. An official inspects the track before racing begins and declares the going, which may change during the course of the meeting. When the racing surface gives due to soft going there is said to be cut in the ground.
If the ground changes after racing has begun trainers may withdraw a horse and declare it a non-runner, as if the going is declared as different during the racing some horses will be at a disadvantage and will be taken out of the race by the trainer. Some horses like cut in the ground and others do not.