Understanding racing form guides and Australian racing conditions with information you can use.
‘The punt’ is a popular pastime in Australia, with betting easily accessible at the TAB (Tote Agencies) on course as well as in many pubs & clubs. The TAB is government regulated but privately operated in most states. Australia has more racing clubs & courses, and more racehorses per capita, than any other country. There is Thoroughbred, Harness & Greyhound racing in Australia seven days a week, except on Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Why Australian Horse Racing is different.
Unlike many countries, the Australian racehorses saddlecloth number is not the same as the starting gate. Runners are ordered according to the weight they carry and the conditions of the race (see below). The starting gate is usually drawn at random by computer (except for certain Feature Races such as the Caulfield Cup & Cox Plate) because an inside gate is considered an advantage over starting out wide, particularly in large fields. The maximum number of runners the Tote can accommodate is 24, most races in Victoria have between 8 to 15 runners. A minimum of 8 runners is required for three place dividends.
Handicaps are not determined by ratings as they are in other countries. The minimum top weight at declarations is 58kgs, from January 1st 2012 the minimum low weight in an ordinary Handicap will be 54kgs, except in special races such as the Melbourne Cup and Caulfield Cup where the minimum ican be lower. The handicapper treats each race individually and handicaps each horse based on their recent form and merits.
Categories of horse races in Australia:
Maiden – restricted to horses who have never won a race. Maidens are eligible to run in any class of race.
Class 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 – Class 1 races are lowest, restricted to horses who have won one race. Class 6 is for horses have won not more than six races.
Restricted or Special Conditions - number of wins in the city or country, age, sex, prize money or colour (e.g. grey horses only) can be a 'special condition.'
Handicap –where the handicapper has assigned weight and penalties based on past performance. The Melbourne Cup is a Group 1 handicap.
Open – a race with no restrictions or special conditions.
Flying – an open race, usually over 1200m or less.
Welter – an open race with a higher minimum weight, suitable for horses that would normally carry 7 or 8 kgs above the minimum in a handicap.
2YO – only for two year old colts, gelding & fillies. The Golden Slipper & Blue Diamond are Group 1 races for 2 year olds.
3YO - only for three year old colts, gelding & fillies.
4YO – only for horses & mares aged four years.
Set Weights & Penalties – horses carry a set weight based on their age & sex, with additional weight (penalties) under certain conditions.
Stakes – can be subject to conditions, but offers higher prize money and usually a Listed or Group race.
Quality Handicap – has higher maximum and lower minimum weights, usually a Listed or Group race.
Weight For Age – weight is allocated based on the horses age and sex. Usually Group races. The Cox Plate is Australia’s premier WFA Group 1 race.
Group & Listed races – the highest class, ‘black type’ races. From lowest to highest: Listed, Group 3, Group 2 & Group 1.
Due in part to the popularity of races such as the Golden Slipper (Group 1 race for 2 year olds) Australian thoroughbreds often begin racing at the age of 2 or 3. Australian horses have their offical birthday on August 1st. During a campaign they may race once a week but usually every two to three weeks. In some instances (such as at Flemington during the Spring Carnival) runners can back up and run twice in the same week. Horses can race for as long as three or four consecutive months before going for a Spell (a break of 90 days or more). It is rare for an Australian horse to race successfully beyond the age of 9.
Some horses perform better when “First Up” after a Spell than others. Their First Up and Second Up record is displayed in some form guides. Horses are often entered into unsuitable races in order to gain race fitness for an event further down the track, this is why it is important to take note of the horse’s previous winning distances.
The Australian style of racing is usually a tightly bunched field with one or more horses setting the pace. However, unlike other countries, it is not permitted for a horse to be entered into a race purely as a pacemaker for another horse from the same stable. Australian jockeys used to be quite vigorous with the whip in the home straight, but new rules since August 2009 have forced them to restrict the use of the whip in the concluding stages of a race.
Lodging a Protest.
Horses must be given clear running during the race, and are supposed to be two horse lengths clear before switching lanes. In Australia, if a protest is lodged for interference during the race, the protestor must satisfy the stewards they would have finished ahead of the horse that posted the interference for it to be upheld. For this reason, protests are most often dismissed. If successful, the horse protested against is relegated to the position of the protestor and all other stakes winners are promoted one place.
In Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania & Western Australia the direction of racing is anti-clockwise, in New South Wales & Queensland it is clockwise.
There are three types of tracks: Metropolitan, Provincial & Country. Metro races are usually better quality and offer more prize money than those on the Provincial tracks, with exception of the Provincial Cups which can be Listed or Group races. Country races are not usually covered by the Tote or off course bookmakers.
Most tracks are constructed of turf, but there are some synthetic Provincial tracks. The track at Moonee Valley is Strathayr (grass on a sand base.) Tracks have a moveable rail designed to protect the grass from wear, and every track is a different shape. Racing at each track is generally restricted up to four times per month.
The rail position, starting point and track conditions will all have an effect on how the race is run. A penetrometer reading is taken on the morning of race day to gauge the amount of give in the track, but each track has its own system of penetrometer ratings and so cannot easily be compared to one another. This is why we have developed our unique Track Bias Report.
A new system for describing the condition of the tracks was introduced in December 2014. While the scale of rating 1 - 10 remains, the new terms have a Firm track for ratings 1 & 2, Good for a track rated 3 or 4, Soft is 5 - 7 and any rating over 8 is Heavy.
The Australian Racing Style & Lodging a Protest.
Guide to Australian Horse Racing.
Understanding Australian Racetracks.
Click on these maps to get more info about Australia's top metro tracks.
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