We’ve all become familiar with traditional labels for the condition of racetracks in North America. On dirt, we usually see tracks called fast, good, sloppy, or muddy. Turf races are mostly labeled firm, good, yielding, or soft. The designations are subjective and often questioned by the racing public. TimeformUS has decided there is a better way. You will begin seeing a numerical rating on a one to 10 scale next to the official track condition in our past performances. The ratings appear for all races beginning with those run on August 28th, 2018. Let’s go over how the new ratings work, answering key questions about the rating system and its utility.
What do the ratings mean?
The firmer the turf course or harder the dirt track, the higher the number will be, with a minimum of 1 and a maximum of 10. The numbers are based largely on the fractional and final times of the races and the resulting track variant used to calculate the speed figures each day, but this isn’t the only factor. The size of the racetrack, the number of turns, possible effects from wind, and distance of the run up are also considered. The goal is to measure the surface itself, not other variables that can and do affect how fast the horses can run over a given surface.
Are these meant to replace traditional designations?
Let’s review by surface.
On this surface, ratings are probably best used in combination with traditional labels. The traditional notations on dirt can provide context to the numerical rating. If a dirt track is really fast because it has been impacted by rain and it is rated “sloppy 10” in TimeformUS PPs, it is still good to know the track was wet, as a track labeled a 10 on a fast dirt track is likely much different than a track labeled a 10 on sloppy dirt.
Moisture is often the dominant factor affecting track speed on turf, so on that surface the numerical rating alone will usually tell a better story than the traditional rating. This cannot be overstated, as we frequently see turf courses rated “Yielding” that were in fact playing much faster than a turf course with a designation of “Good,” and vice versa. More on this in the examples below.
Synthetic surfaces are all labeled as fast. They do tend to vary quite a bit, so this rating will certainly provide information previously not included in any other past performances.
What is the handicapping value to these ratings?
Horses prefer certain types of surface conditions. In England, for example, the preferred “going” of each horse is considered a huge handicapping factor, and commented upon frequently in the Timeform comments you’ll see for overseas shippers in TimeformUS PPs. It isn’t talked about as often here in North America, but we believe our horses have similar preferences. As we get more and more races labeled with this new rating, these preferences will become even clearer to our customers.
The following races were run over the same racetrack just four days apart. Clearly these were over surfaces playing vastly differently despite both having the traditional “fast” label.
The example below shows back to back races for the same horse. Traditional labels might lead some to believe the horse ran better on a firmer “good” course than he did on the “soft” one, but the numbers tell a different story:
The better race came on the slower course, something that could provide value in the future, when the horse is running on a track that is yielding slow times.
Rough comparison of traditional ratings versus the TimeformUS scale:
Again, on dirt, it is probably best to use these in combination with traditional labels to determine if the track is wet.