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Horse racing in the United Kingdom, and indeed, around the world, takes place all year round, throughout the seasons. That means there is some very different weather raced in, which, in turn affects the ground on which the horses race. The condition of the ground is known as the going.
There are a number of variations of the going. Starting on grass (or turf) there is firm, good to firm, good, good to soft, soft and heavy. Ireland includes yielding, which is comparable to good to soft, and on dirt tracks the going can also be fast or sloppy. All-weather courses usually have standard going, but it can also be slow to standard or slow.
Since 2007 the going has been reported for each meeting by the clerk of the course at each track, or their nominated representative, with am GoingStick used to gather standardised readings from track to track. The lower the number recorded by the going stick, the softer the ground.
While the aphorism that the best horses act on any going may be correct, most horses have a preference for one going or another, where they invariably produce their best races.
Horses that prefer a faster surface usually have what is known as a ‘daisycutter’ action, skimming along at the top of the ground, while those with a higher knee action prefer plenty of give in the ground to be at their very best.
On dirt surfaces, rain can make the track ride even faster, with some of the best times recorded on a sloppy track. On the all-weather, very cold weather or re-harrowing of the track can make it slower, but generally it rides the same throughout the year.
Knowing the going of a track, and a horse’s success rate on that particular surface, can be useful information for bettors picking where to put their money.
The GoingStick takes at least 30 readings from at least six different waypoints on a track, so the going of a track is determined from at least 180 separate readings.