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Going (UK), track condition (US) or track rating (AUS) are the terms used to describe the track surface of a horse racing track prior to a horse race or race meet. The going is determined by the amount of moisture in the ground and is assessed by an official steward on the day of the race.
The condition of a race track plays an important role in the performance of horses in a race. The factors that go into determining race track condition include the surface conditions, type of surface, and track configuration. The surface conditions are influenced by the type of surface factoring in soil type, and if the track is dirt, turf, artificial surface; plus surface density, porosity, compaction and moisture content.
Prior to a race meeting, an inspection of the racecourse’s surface is conducted by officials. This process consists of a visual inspection and the use of a tool called a penetrometer which measures the soil’s resistance to penetration. The inspection is conducted before the meeting to allow publication of the track rating for the benefit of punters and trainers. In the case of rain prior to a meeting, a much earlier inspection will be made to permit an early decision as to whether the meeting can proceed, before travelling horses depart for the meeting.
Tracks may be upgraded or downgraded while a race meeting is taking place. The main reasons for this is that sun/heat is able to dry out the track during the course of the day possibly resulting in track upgrade or that inclement weather and rain continues as the racing continues (track downgrade). Jockeys, too, will be involved in inspections made during the meeting if there is any doubt as to the safety of riding on a downgraded or wet track.
On December 1 2014, the Australian Racing Board (ARB) put into place a revised 10 point system using ratings from Firm 1 through to Heavy 10. The revised system removes the terms ‘Fast’, ‘Dead’, and ‘Slow’ replacing them with ‘Firm’ and 'Soft’ while also retaining the terms ‘Good’ and ‘Heavy’.
Below are the official ratings recognised by all race clubs in Australia:
Additionally, a rating of AWT is being used to signify an All Weather Track, which equates to a Good (4) surface under some bad weather conditions.
In the UK and Republic of Ireland, there are seven grades of surface, which are:
Since 2009, in addition to the official description of the going, British racecourses are required to report penetrometer readings on the day of the race. A penetrometer designed by Cranfield University and TurfTrax, known as the 'GoingStick', is used for these measurements. The 'hard' grade is rarely used, as a racetrack with this type of surface is generally deemed to be dangerous to both horses and jockeys. No races took place on tracks rated as 'hard going' between 2008 and 2013.
In Ireland the term "yielding" is used for "good to soft" going.
For artificial surfaces in the UK the official grades are:
In the United States, different systems are used for turf racetracks and dirt tracks. Artificial surfaces (called all-weather tracks in official charts) use the dirt track rating system.
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