Even though many horse tracks have switched over to the synthetic surfaces that aren’t affected as much by moisture, there are still some dirt race tracks left in the United States. Knowing how to handicap an off track rated as good, muddy, or sloppy, can save the day. Betting on horses racing on a fast track is risky enough, but betting on an off track adds one more dimension.
The best advice seems to be, if the track isn’t fast, don’t bet the races. But if you want to try your hand at handicapping an off track and picking winners, here are some tips. First of all, since the race tracks in the United States don’t tell you how much moisture is in the track in any scientific or quantifiable way, you must be the final judge of the track condition.
I have seen tracks with puddles of water, that were obviously sloppy tracks, rated as good. On the other hand, I’ve seen muddy tracks rated as fast. So you must make up your own mind and remember that subjective terms like muddy, or sloppy, are just that, subjective. They are an opinion, not a fact.
Muddy tracks are not fast tracks, but sloppy tracks often are. On top of that, each dirt race track has its own peculiar way of reacting to moisture. Some drain toward the rail and therefore favor outside runners. Others are crowned and favor mid track post positions. Once again, it is up to you to know the track you are playing. What you must do is to suspect a bias and then quickly verify it.
While you are playing the track, you must also be aware of how much rain is falling, if it is still raining, and how the track may change from race to race. If this sounds difficult, you’re right, it is. Not only must you handicap the horses, but on a day when the weather is inclement, you must also handicap the track surface. I advise keeping meticulous notes so that when the situation arises, and it will, you can take advantage of it quickly.
Just as we look for situations that repeat themselves with horses and trainers, we look for weather situations that repeat and create a track bias we have seen in the past.