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The ground is a major factor in determining how horses run because most horses are ground dependent, as their physical attributes and running style are suited to certain type of going. Some horses though produce consistent form regardless of the underfoot conditions.
However, most runners have a preference so the ground must be considered when assessing a race. Most tracks report good ground but depending on the amount of rainfall the ground could be soft or firm. There are other extremes of going but the vast majority of races in Britain are run on soft, good or firm going or a combination of two of those going descriptions.
On the day of a race the Clerk of the Course examines the ground and announces the going. The description of the underfoot conditions appears in the details for each meeting at the time the inspection took place. If there is more rain between this time and the first race a change to the going is announced. A course could go from being good to soft to soft if there is a continual downpour in the hours before the first race.
Firm ground is one of the extremes and will occur after a prolonged spell of dry weather. If the going is fast horses are more susceptible to injury and fields are generally smaller. Trainers can pull horses out of a race if there is an appreciable change in the going, and horses that relish soft ground will struggle to display their best form on firm ground.
When measuring the suitability of a horse for a race the going is an important consideration. Bookmakers will change the odds accordingly when the ground changes in favour of one or more of the runners, so a betting market can be transformed if there is a going change on the day of the race.