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Essential Guide To All-Weather Racing

August 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Recent Articles

In the UK there are two types of track surface used on the All-weather race courses. Kempton, Lingfield and Wolverhampton all use Polytrack; whilst the surface at Southwell is Fibresand. Most punters automatically assume that the UK’s All-Weather courses are the same. Knowing this is clearly not the case, in this betting tutorial we’ll be looking at each course individually.

It is important to realise that individual horse form achieved at Lingfield, Southwell, Kempton and Wolverhampton is not transferable. There are plenty of differences between the four main All-Weather  tracks. For example:

  • Kempton is right-handed, whereas all the other three Polytracks are left-handed.
  • Each track has a different shape and length of finishing straight.
  • Lingfield and Kempton often attract better quality horses.
  • Southwell and Wolverhampton often hold a lot of low quality contests, such as Banded races, Selling races and Claiming races, usually involving mediocre horses that are rarely seen on turf.
  • Horses that have shown a decent level of form at Kempton, Lingfield or Wolverhampton often fail to reproduce that form when racing at Southwell – even over the same trip.

Obviously there is more to it than that and we will be taking a more in-depth look at each course’s characteristics below. Although we can appreciate not every punter will want to know about the intricacies of the all-weather surfaces.

Bearing this in mind you can read our betting cheat sheet “Secrets of The Pro Bettors: 11 Tips For Profitable All-weather laying” to give you a big advantage when assessing which form factors you should consider when laying favourites on the sand.


This is sand which has been coated in a rubberized material called polymar. This type of sand is intended to reduce the ‘kick-back effect’ in which sand is thrown up from the leading horses’ hooves into the face of those behind. So Polytrack means less sand will be kicked into  horses’ eyes.

The majority of trainers are said to prefer Polytrack to Fibresand. The surface is kinder on the horses and helps to reduce injuries.

Most horses handle this consistent surface. Therefore, races are usually run at a decent pace, which means it is essential for horses to get the distance. Horses with proved form over one mile on Polytrack at a particular course are likely to be OK when dropping back in distance to, say, 7 furlongs. Conversely, horses only proved up to six furlongs may struggle to translate their form over a mile.

There is also evidence that races run on Polytrack are more competitive than those on Fibresand. That means Polytrack is definitely good news for the layer, as races are often harder to predict.


Fibresand is used at Southwell. Which and is considered a more challenging surface compared with Polytrack. It is slower, deeper and produced considerable kickback.

Horses can be seen to run wide when racing to avoid this effect. Those who like to lead and race prominently can have a distinct advantage because they avoid a lot of the kickback effect.

The Fibresand surface at Southwell can be loosely compared to racing on soft ground on turf.

Horses that have shown a decent level of form at Kempton, Lingfield or Wolverhampton often fail to reproduce that form when racing at Southwell – even over the same trip. So unless you have evidence that the horse is proved over course and distance, don’t take it for granted that it will perform as well on this different surface.

We now know that the form from each All-Weather track is not transferable because each track has its own is uniqueness.

When reading the Racing Post or any other form guide you will see remarks such as: “Consistent sort who has won 4 times on the All-Weather.” These comments can be misleading and need to be investigated in more detail. Often you will find a horse has a liking for a particular track and distance, and most of those wins came when the animal had its favoured racing conditions.

If the horse is racing on a different surface over a track with a different configuration, then there is no guarantee the animal will perform to its optimum ability. Plenty of horses end up favourite simply because they have won a few AW races.

After delving a little deeper into their form it starts to become apparent that they have either never raced at the course, or have failed to reproduce their best there. So we can draw conclusions that conclude they are unproved, or unsuited, to that track.

Overall the quality of the horses racing on All-Weather surfaces is poor. Having said that there are periods through out the year when better class animals are contested such as:

  • A few weeks before the flat turf season begins. (Trainers will give their string of horses a race or two on the sand to gain fitness)
  • Specific races during the winter championship season ( Winter Derby )

Both types of surfaces are controlled with farm-like machinery such as harrows and rollers. This can affect draw biases, but on the whole this situation would mainly present itself when the weather changes e.g. heavy rain or frost.

Shape of the course

British All-Weather  courses come in various shapes and sizes. Some have sharp turns.  Others have sweeping bends. This is exactly why biases are different at each course. No two are exactly the same.

This also partly explains why certain horses perform well at a particular course and fail miserably at another, even when they may first appear to have conditions to suit. Basically horses — like human athletes — have their own style of running. Most courses are either suited to those animals that like to race prominently, or those that that like to be held up. The old cliché “horses for courses”, is, therefore, true to some extent.

You can check to see if your selection has a poor draw in the Racing Post. Often they document information such as this for each race. You can get more in depth information about each UK course draw bias here.

Draw Bias

The results of A.W. races are often influenced by the draw, especially over shorter distances. A really bad draw can be impossible to overcome. Conversely, there are starting positions which can give a horse a big advantage, especially if those animals have conditions to suit.

The main problem associated with draw biases is they frequently change, so any completely rigid set of rules with regards to a particular bias often becomes irrelevant when conditions change. Whether you are backing or laying on the All-Weather surfaces, it really is worth paying attention to draw biases. The following factors are worthy of consideration in regards to the effect of the draw.

The artificial surfaces can be worked to contradict any draw bias. Polytrack is the easiest surface for ground staff to influence, with harrows and plough masters.

Rain can affect draw biases, especially heavy rain, which can make the artificial surfaces firmer, similar to a beach where the sand meets the sea. Any temporary draw bias caused by heavy rain usually doesn’t last, but can affect an established draw bias for a single meeting.

You can read race assessment comments in your preferred for guide to help you assess and combine racing fundamentals with the effects of the draw for each All-Weather  course, or read our detailed draw bias guide here.

However, as draw bias change regularly, we consider producing stats for them would be unreliable unless they were updated monthly. Dave Renham at Racing trends produces an updated draw bias guide for each UK course.


One of Britain’s top All-Weather trainers in the UK was quoted saying:

“On the all-weather courses, it is very important that horses are able to hold their position. It’s much harder to win from off the pace.”

Even the best late-runners have problems on artificial surfaces, because they cannot accelerate as they can on grass. It seems logical that so called ‘one-paced’ horses could improve significantly. Their lack of acceleration will not be so great a handicap. Winners on grass often tend to run comparatively poorly on the artificial surfaces.

Undoubtedly some of the UK trainers have better strike-rates on the All–Weather surface and it’s worth separating them into distinct categories. Several trainers in the UK now have All-Weather gallops. Results in recent years from David Barron and Hugh Morrison prove the benefit of having a Fibresand-style gallop at home.

The A.W. season

Flat racing on the All-Weather surfaces in the UK takes place all year round. The main All-Weather season begins when the flat turf season ends in November, running through to March, ending with the finale of the Winter derby meeting at Lingfield Park. This period of the A.W. season is classed as the All-Weather winter championship and is managed by the British Horseracing Authority.

March, April and May are traditionally good months for laying horses.

Battle of the sexes

Another major factor worth considering is the sex of the horses. When laying favourites on Betfair try this simple method:

Lay female horses (fillies) facing colts (males)

For whatever reason females really are bad bets on the All-Weather.

All-Weather  Races Containing All Genders







Colts 1237 8933 14% 1.46 -16%
Fillies 938 13965 7% 0.71 -52%
Geldings 1824 18845 10% 1.02 -25%
Horses 105 1037 10% 1.07 -20%
Mares 111 1796 6% 0.65 -50%

This table above shows the performance of all genders in races which contained at least 1 colt and at least 1 filly.

In order to account for more than one of the same gender running in the race the best stat to use here is the Impact Value stat.

The IV stat shows that colts are the best gender to follow on the sand. The Impact Value of 1.46 is twice that of fillies. Horses (males, non gelded aged 5 and upwards) are the second best, followed closely by geldings.

Mares (females aged 5 and upwards) perform just as badly as fillies. So this is a clear indication that the boys are winning the battle of the sexes on the sand.

The above statistics where reproduced with permission from

Jonathan Burgess

Jonathan Burgess is an official Betfair Accredited Trainer and racing columnist for various respected betting industry publications such as: Betting School, The Daily Punt and Betfair’s Education site. He also runs the Profitable – False Favourites Betting Tips Club. You can contact him here

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  1. […] One third of all UK Races are now run on the artificial surfaces. Therefore, we can accept All-Weather racing as an established part of the UK racing calendar. Having said that, a lot of punters still fail to recognise the main differences between the All-Weather  courses. […]

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