There are two main racing centers in Australian racing, featuring races from Melbourne and Sydney. The other racing centers in other locations have the occasional week or two of top quality racing during the year, but the Melbourne and Sydney tracks have the lion’s share of the quality, because they have the largest purses.
It is also important to note that the big action, much like in North America, is centered on SATURDAY afternoon races (Friday night in North America). These are the days that the stakes races are run, with the exception of the Melbourne Cup carnival in late October through early November, when several stakes are run over various days of the week.
Top class Melbourne Area tracks
Hosts the Melbourne Cup
Short sprints (five, five and a half, and six-furlongs) are run in a straight line (‘down the straight’). Generally favors sprinters with a high cruising pace that can track the early speed.
Far turn is VERY, very wide and the stretch run is over 600 yards long.
Hosts the Caufield Cup, and horses must go uphill on the far turn
Moonee Valley (MOV)
Hosts the Cox Plate, and usually they run Friday nights in Aus, NOT Saturday afternoons.
MOV has a VERY short stretch (roughly 250 yards)
Top-Class Sydney Area tracks
Hosts the Golden Slipper (World’s richest 2yo race), wide turns
Hosts 16 Group 1 races, very wide turns (think Belmont Park)
Warwick Farm (WAF)
Generally not as classy as ROS or RAN, and probably the most speed-favoring track in Australia
Canterbury Park (CAN)
Tight turns (by Australian standards), and tends to favor speed horses
Just like horses in the USA and Canada, there are horses for courses because the geometry for each track is quite a bit different from another track. If a horse has tried a track three or four times and has not run well, it is probably wise to assume it will struggle again today. Look to old pros who obviously like today’s circuit, and/or NEW horses that have not demonstrated they are terrible.
Turf Track Conditions:
In Australia, they use a PENETROMETER rating from 0-10 to rank how firm/soft a racetrack surface is. This rating will be provided to the North American players during the simulcast, and will be updated when it rains during the card.
Australian system: Corresponding North American system:
“Good (0-3)” – GD “Firm”
“Dead (4-5)” – DD “Good” (slightly rain softened)
“Slow (6-7)” – SL “Soft” (substantial give)
“Heavy (8-10)” – HY “Yielding” (deep and tiring)
Most horses do their best on “good” or “dead” surfaces. Personally I prefer betting the “dead” surfaces, because some horses do not like it TOO firm. Other horses do their best on “slow” or “heavy.” Australians call these horses “wet trackers.” A look at a horse’s ‘career box’ will give a good indication what type of surface a horse prefers. Take note that Australian experts will maintain that a horse that can go well on a Heavy 8 may not prefer a Heavy 10.
Unfortunately, we do not get consistent splits in the Australian PPs like in North American racing PPs. But looking at the running lines it can be determined which horses are early speed and which are closers.
Purses and Stakes Races:
Generally the higher the purse, the tougher the race is.
Comparing handicap race to handicap race, the HIGHER the attached number (say 85 compared to 78), the higher the race rating, and the tougher the competition is. Group 1 is considered the highest level stake, followed by Group 2, Group 3 and Listed Race (LR). A listed race is considered a race higher in quality than a tough handicap race, but is lower in esteem than a Group 3 (but it is possible for a LR to be tougher than a weak Gr. 3).
Generally horses that have a 3 points or larger edge in typical speed figure win, especially in maiden races and lower-level handicaps. Speed figure advantages less than that do not seem to consistently win.
Picks for Friday, Aug. 23rd (North American time)? Yep, we got ‘em:
Race 4C – #3 MONTSEGUR comes back in ONE WEEK (a typical Aussie ‘power move’ that they call “backing up”) and her best form is pretty good. Trainer Peter Snowden is one of Australia’s best trainers and if you can get 7/2 take it.
Race 5c – I don’t love ANYBODY in here, so I am going to take a price. #9 DREAM FORWARD looks sharp and draws post 4 (Note in Australia post position does not correlate with betting number). She’s #1 on earnings/start and seems to be going the right way. Exacta players can throw in #5 PITCREW, who has already won at 7 furlongs.
Race 7c – #6 REUNITE has won 4 for 9, but lost last time on a Slow track. His races on Good and Dead tracks are very solid and he’s also undefeated (2 for 2) at the 6.5 furlong distance. An added incentive is the Grandfather/Grandson training team are trying to win races in bunches to get their new partnership off to a flying start. I definitely would NOT back this horse on Soft or Heavy ground.