Trying to inject objectivity into a highly subjective enterprise such as punting can be maddening.
But that doesn't mean it is completely impossible or that it does not have a role in providing an edge for punters who are able to analyse objective data and steal a march on other wagerers who overlook or simply ignore the available information.
One area of consideration that fits neatly into the category of subjective/objective information is track conditions. A standardized method of evaluating track surface conditions is in place that attempts to let a punter in NSW for example, understand what kind of ground they're running in Perth. It isn't perfect, but it's a tool that properly utilized will return dividends.
This is information that is freely available to anyone who wishes to avail themselves, but the majority of punters do not care. Most simply want to have a good time, experience the thrill of backing long odds occasionally and have the opportunity to big-note themselves whilst hoisting amber fluid at the hotel. Punters that use track condition info to maybe find an underachiever going off at long odds against with a record of running well on poor tracks should always remember to be grateful to those other blokes, and use the money you took from them to buy them a tinny now and again.
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At any rate, let's take a quick look at the different track conditions, how they're determined and how to take advantage. It should not be forgotten that track conditions can and do change over the course of a meeting, tracks can have varying conditions in different sections and there is still a significant degree of subjectivity involved as to how the determination is made. This last is a heads-up to Internet punters, as what may be described as firm in Australia may be much slower in Europe. Track conditions are not a Holy Grail, merely a clue.
For purposes of this discussion, we're going to focus on grass, and ignore dirt and artificial surfaces.
An effort to reduce the subjectivity of track conditions involves the same technology as that used on space craft that land on other planets. They both use a device called a penetrometer to measure as accurately as possible, characteristics such as soil type, density, porousness, degree of compaction and moisture content. When used for race track conditions, readings are taken from various sections of the track to arrive at an average.
The thing to keep in mind with an average is that the average might be the result of a very narrow range of measurements, but that the same average could be achieved with a wide range of results. Simply stated, on any given day, a course could have three or more different conditions and your pick might be going good at one point only to lose a leg at another.
Tracks are generally described from best to worst as being Fast, Good, Dead, Slow and Heavy. A 1-10 scale often accompanies these descriptions. Fast 1 would indicate a dry, hard track where horses could run their fastest. In order to protect valuable Thoroughbreds, effort is made to have the track be a little softer. Stewards in Melbourne, during fine weather will prepare a track to be Dead in the morning, hoping for it to transform to Good by the afternoon.
Where track condition information is of most value is when it can be used in conjunction with horse physical characteristics such as gait and hoof size to find a horse that performs well under certain conditions.
The majority of punters do not make the effort to do such things as examine video for a horse with high knee action that will do well on wet tracks or look at previous results, ignoring the fact that a history of certain results under certain conditions will in all likelihood remain consistent for a horse throughout its career. This factor can also be looked at from the standpoint of pedigree. The progeny of a horse that did well under certain conditions are likely to inherit this ability.
This may help you to avoid the horse who's a duffer in the wet and perhaps find a mudlark with a handsome payday for your thoroughness.
Track conditions are only one factor that influences performance. While good form guides will tell you, based on past results, what you can possibly expect, weight carried, starting position, jockey, even the importance of the event are all unknown factors for which you need to account if you're looking to punt for additional income or for a living. Just be secure in the knowledge that this one thing alone will put you a nose and a neck in front of 80% of your competition.