All weather (AW) racing takes place on an artificial surface, allowing racing in adverse weather conditions. It is 25 years since AW started in Britain. There are now five AW courses in the UK: Kempton Park; Lingfield; Southwell; Wolverhampton; and Chelmsford City.
Racing purists don’t like AW racing, and generally the quality of it is poorer than on the turf. The bookies do like it however, and with new AW venues likely at Newcastle and Carlisle any serious bettor has to give it increasing attention.
The serious punter needs to appreciate that turf form does not necessarily transfer to the AW. Further because the tracks are so different then AW form does not transfer among the AW tracks.
There are three types of AW surface. Fibresand (Southwell) is a slow and heavy surface equivalent to turf, but produces a surface kickback which some horses dislike. Runners can be strung out at the finish and times are slow. Polytrack (Lingfield; Kempton; Chelmsford) is a kinder and faster surface. Tapeta (Wolverhampton) was developed by Michael Dickenson. It is an improved polytrack, requiring less maintenance and allowing going changes. It is used on training gallops by famous yards, and at racecourses worldwide including Meydan. Going conditions on AW tracks are affected in the opposite direction to turf. When it rains on an AW track the surface becomes compact and faster, and in prolonged dry spells it becomes slower.
Apart from different surfaces, there are other reasons why form is not comparable among different tracks. Kempton is a right hand track. Lingfield is sharp whereas Wolverhampton is a galloping track. Each track has a different shape and length of finishing straight.
Having said all that, AW surfaces are consistent and races are generally “true run.” Many punters consider that better prices are available on the AW, so it is worth analysing what we know about AW winners.
- Colts do notably better than fillies or mares.
- Some trainers (Charlie Appleby and John Gosden) and jockeys (Luke Morris and Adam Kirby) have good AW records.
- “Course” and “Course and Distance” winners are worth following.
- Some turf form transfers better than others. Form at tracks such as Brighton and Epsom can stand up, presumably because of their sandy soil structures.
- Certain sire’s consistently produce better AW performing offspring than others. Also American bred horses do well on the AW, presumably because of its similarity to dirt tracks.
- There is a draw advantage on AW tracks, but it tends to be transient and can last for as little as one meeting. Such a bias can be caused by rain, or how the artificial surface has been worked by the ground staff.
- The racing on AW tracks tends to favour steady runners throughout the race (akin to sectional timing) and it is difficult to win by coming off the pace at the end of a race.
The quality of AW racing is likely to drop. With the advent of the proposed new northern AW venues, northern based horses will be unlikely to travel to the southern tracks as frequently. The astute punter however is advised not to discard AW racing from his portfolio, but to concentrate on known indicators of success and on disregarding non-relevant form to find hopefully good-priced winners.