Eddie Wood brings his expert analysis to bear on the key characteristics of the country’s Flat tracks
Starting a comprehensive guide to British tracks
It is important to acknowledge the distinctive characteristics of racecourses. An understanding of their features has influenced not only my betting but my research on altitude and its potential effects on racehorses. It is not surprising that the altitude of our tracks varies from one metre above sea level atYarmouth to a staggering 237 metres above sea level at Bath. The same can be said for different training establishments.This has led me to pose an important question: does sending a racehorse to a similar altitude level as their stables have a positive effect on their performance?
Today, I have focussed on British Flat racecourses from Ascot to Haydock. The other courses including All-weather and National Hunt courses will be presented in future articles.
ASCOT (BERKSHIRE) – ALTITUDE 89 METRES BET-WISE:
Big handicap favourites at over 4/1 are usually worth supporting when conditions are in their favour.
COURSE-WISE: The round course is a triangular right-hander of 14 furlongs, downhill to Swinley Bottom but then uphill until 150 yards. The Old Mile joins the track at Swinley Bottom. While there is also a straight, gently undulating mile (Hunt Cup) course, it is mainly uphill for the last furlongs.There are easy turns and this is very much a galloping track despite the short straight of two-and-a-half fur- longs. The round course is particularly testing when the ground is soft, and horses of suspect stamina will find it hard to win here.There is a short run-in of less than three furlongs.
DRAW-WISE: Generally of little consequence but high numbers are slightly favoured when the stalls are on the stands side,more so when the ground is soft.Low numbers in large fields appear to have an advantage. HORSE-WISE: Front-runners have a reasonable record and always require a second look.
AYR (AYRSHIRE) – ALTITUDE 17 METRES BET-WISE:
Horses with a top speed figure in non-handicaps are worth a second look. COURSE-WISE: The round course is a left-handed oval measuring about 12 furlongs, with a half-mile run-in.There is also a wide and straight six-furlong course with a pronounced downwards slope and slight uphill climb.The gentle undulations and sweeping turns make this a very fair track.
DRAW-WISE: On the straight course,low numbers have an advantage particularly when the ground is soft or heavy. Low numbers have a distinct advantage over seven furlongs and a mile.
HORSE-WISE: Galloping types are well favoured here. As are off the pace horses contesting races of 12 furlongs.
BATH (SOMERSET) – ALTITUDE 237 METRES BET-WISE:
This course is the highest above sea level on the Flat and form transfers well from other high-altitude courses such as Epsom,Goodwood and Salisbury.
COURSE-WISE: The round course is an oval left-hander of a mile-and-a-half,with a gentle uphill run-in of half-a-mile,which bends to the left.There is an extension for races of five furlongs and five furlongs 167 yards,with a further distinct bend a furlong out.Despite the constant turns,the bends are easy and the track suits galloping types, while the longish run-in allows stamina to come into play. The old down land turf ensures that there are seldom extremes of going.
DRAW-WISE: Low numbers are favoured in races up to a mile, but slightly less so over five and six furlongs. This is especially so in handicaps. Middle to high-drawn horses are best in sprints.
HORSE-WISE: Galloping types are favoured on this track.
BEVERLEY (YORKSHIRE) – ALTITUDE 44 METRES BET-WISE:
Beverley favourites usually average 40%. Keep a close eye on races that come close to this figure,especially in handicaps.
COURSE-WISE: The course has a tight right-hand oval of 11 furlongs,with a short uphill run-in of two-and-a-half furlongs. This is a preceded by a marked dissent
on the downhill turn into the straight.This, along with the short run-in,provides a test for the galloping type who is otherwise in his element here. The 5-furlong course starts on a separate extension, uphill all the way and is very severe particularly on early 2-year-olds.
DRAW-WISE: low draws are best in sprints.
BRIGHTON (EAST SUSSEX) – ALTITUDE 126 METRES BET-WISE:
support top weights that have an excellent speed figure in handicaps.
COURSE-WISE: the track is a left-handed horseshoe of approximately 12 furlongs with a three-and-a-half furlong run-in.It is undulating,with a steep descent from half a mile out until the two-furlong marker. This is followed by a sharp rise at the final 100 yards. The turns are easy, but the undulations mitigate against long-striding animals and favour long front-running types.This is a particularly sharp and idiosyncratic track which favours course specialists, both horses and jockeys.
DRAW-WISE: slightly favours low numbers in sprints but speed from the gate is more important. Although the ground drains well,it is rarely heavy.When it is,the jockeys tend to tack across the stand side in search of better ground.
HORSE-WISE: compact well-balanced runners do well, particularly front-runners.
– ALTITUDE 66 METRES BET-WISE: gambled on two-year-olds is a regular feature.
COURSE-WISE: the track is a pearshaped right-hander of just over 13 furlongs,with a run-in of nearly three-anda-half furlongs.There is no straight course but instead a turning chute for the five and six-furlong courses, and for the mile and twelve furlongs starts. There are considerable undulations and from the four-furlong marker to the distance there is a steep rise. This puts a considerable demand on stamina.
DRAW-WISE: favours high numbers but more so in sprints when the stalls are on the far side. In soft ground, a low draw over five and six furlongs is often favourable. HORSE-WISE: the testing nature of the course ideally suites long-striding stayers.
CATTERICK (NORTH YORKSHIRE) – ALTITUDE 60 METRES BET-WISE:
favourites in two-year-old non-handicaps have a 50% plus strikerate. Two-year-old handicaps are well short of 30% as expected but always give them a second look.
COURSE-WISE: the track is an oval lefthander of only 9 furlongs with pronounced undulations. There are two chutes, one for the five-furlong start and one for the seven-furlong races.There is a straight run-in of three furlongs.The fivefurlong track is downhill throughout, sharply so at the start, and the turn into the straight is tight with a descending gradient. The track is distinctly sharp and suits handy, adaptable types.
DRAW-WISE: low to middle drawn horses are slightly favoured on the fivefurlong track, but speed from the gate is more important in all sprints particularly with runners who can get an early prominent position. HORSE-WISE: the course suits quick starting, well-balanced horses, and frontrunners do well.
CHEPSTOW (MONMOUTHSHIRE) – ALTITUDE 96 METRES BET-WISE:
avoid top weights on form as they have a poor record here.
COURSE-WISE: the round course is a left-handed oval of nearly two miles.It has a long run-in of just under five furlongs which extends on a chute to make a straight mile.All races up to a mile are run on the latter which is downhill to the fivefurlong start, then rises for two and a half furlongs before levelling out to the winning post. Undulations and reasonably sharp bends are a major feature of the track. DRAW-WISE: there is seemingly little advantage but when the going is soft, low numbers are favoured on the
straight. In fields of more than twelve runners, high numbers appear to have an advantage.
CHESTER (CHESHIRE) – ALTITUDE 6 METRES
BET-WISE: in my opinion, no one rides this track better than Franny Norton. But you must be very selective with his mounts as they are generally over-bet. Graham Lee is the man to follow if you want to make a profit but, again, you must be highly selective.
COURSE-WISE: this tight, almost circular left-hand track is the smallest in the country at just over a mile long. Perfectly flat, and with a sharp bend leading to a two-furlong run-in, the track favours the quick-actioned horse against the longstriding type, except in staying races, which can develop into extreme stamina tests on soft ground.
DRAW-WISE: low numbers are favoured, but speed from the gate is more important in sprints. It is almost impossible to overcome a slow start and a high draw.
HORSE-WISE: favours the quickactioned horse in sprints.
DONCASTER (YORKSHIRE) – ALTITUDE 16 METRES BET-WISE:
in recent seasons, two jockeys have topped my profitability tables. They are Andrea Atzeni and Jeremy Spencer.Whist I believe that Ryan Moore is one of the best riders in the world, he is over-bet at most courses and this one is no exception. Be very selective with his mounts.
COURSE-WISE: the round course is a pear-shaped left-hander, and is the longest in the country at just under two miles. There is a mile straight and the run-in on the round course is a demanding four-and-a-half furlongs. It’s almost perfectly flat surface and great width make this course one of the fairest in the country. The sweeping turns and long run-in makes it galloping in nature. DRAW-WISE: high numbers have an advantage on the straight course when the stalls are on the stands’ side. HORSE-WISE: ideal for the long-striding stayer.
EPSOM (SURREY) – ALTITUDE 127 METRES
BET-WISE: seriously consider Charles Bishop’s mounts as over the last couple of years he has been very profitable.
COURSE-WISE: This is a left-handed Ushaped track of one-and-a-half miles. There are changing gradients and extra surface undulations.The track is uphill for the first half-mile, level for two furlongs then sharply downhill round the bend to Tattenham Corner.This is until the furlong pole where it rises quite sharply to the finish.The five-furlong track is straight and almost all downhill making it very sharp. The six and seven-furlong races start on tangential extensions. The Derby course can only be a test of stamina if there is a strong early pace.
DRAW-WISE: high numbers have an advantage in five-furlong races and a slight advantage over six furlongs. Avoid stalls 1 and 2 in fields of 14 runners or more.
HORSE-WISE: many horses are quite unable to act on the course. Course specialists and front-runners do well here, especially in races up to a mile. Speed from the gate is paramount for a good performance. Low numbers have a marked advantage in races between eight and ten furlongs.
FFOS LAS (CARMARTHENSHIRE) – ALTITUDE 47 METRES BET-WISE:
caution needs to be taken at this track as statistics have been available for less than six years.Three jockeys interest me from the profitability angle. They are Steve Drowne, Martin Harley and Martin Lane. Martin Harley’s strike-rate is over 30% but all three jockey’s mounts need scrutiny. COURSE-WISE: a left-handed track with a galloping nature this track. It is a onemile four-furlong oval with sweeping bends. Races over five and six furlongs start on a chute.
DRAW-WISE: Low numbers are favoured in races up to seven furlongs.
GOODWOOD (WEST SUSSEX) – ALTITUDE 160 METRES BET-WISE:
Richard Hannon and Mark Johnston send the most horses to Goodwood. They have a similar strike-rate in most seasons but from a betting and profitability point of view,it is Mark Johnston who you need to scrutinize to stay in the black.
COURSE-WISE: the track is straight for six furlongs with a right-handed loop twice attached to the straight. Races of a mile enjoy a four-furlong run-in while longer races re-join the straight five-furlong run-in.The upper turn is quite sharp and the various gradients, both up and downhill, this is a sharp track which does not place the accent on stamina,except of course in the Cup races. The five-furlong track is one of the fastest in the country.
DRAW-WISE: high numbers have an advantage over seven and eight furlongs. Low numbers are favoured in sprints.Low to middle numbers are also favoured in big field handicaps over 7f-8f.
HORSE-WISE: Handy, good-actioned horses perform well here. Long-striding types are at a disadvantage.There may be an advantage on the sprint course in large fields but further research is required.
HAMILTON (LANARKSHIRE) – ALTITUDE 51 METRES BET-WISE:
from the profitability angle, Iain Jardine’s runners and Joey Haynes’s mounts are the ones to carefully study.
COURSE-WISE: it is a straight six-furlong course,with a pear-shaped,right-handed loop. The whole course measures 13 furlongs with a run-in of 5 furlongs. The bends are sweeping and the track has several slight undulations.
DRAW-WISE: High numbers are slightly favoured at all distances but are at a better advantage up to a mile.
HORSE-WISE: Just over 3 furlongs out there are steep gradients into and out of a pronounced dip,and then an uphill climb to the finish.In what is otherwise a galloping track, the dip provides an interesting test for the long-striding horse.
HAYDOCK (LANCASHIRE) – ALTITUDE 50 METRES BET-WISE:
this is an interesting course profitability wise. Three trainers and two jockeys stand head and shoulders above the rest.Tom Dascombe,John Gosden and Willie Haggas carry the trainer baton and our jockeys are Richard Kingscote and Daniel Tudhope.
COURSE-WISE: This comprises of a lefthanded oval circuit of about 13 furlongs, with a run-in of four-and-a-half furlongs. There is a straight six-furlong course,and an alternative six-furlong course that starts on a tangential extension to the round course, likewise for the 12-furlong course. There are only minor surface undulations, and easy bends. The long run-in is slightly uphill,when the ground is soft, it becomes quite a test of stamina.
DRAW-WISE: With the stalls on the stand side, high numbers have an advantage in sprints. Low numbers tend to have an advantage in races over other distances, although early speed to secure a handy position is equally important.
HORSE-WISE: The course suits the longstriding galloper. This article will be continued next month. Until then,take care and good investing.