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Horse Racing Betting: Grass Surfaces

Turf or grass racing constitutes the vast majority of flat races that you'll likely see in the UK and Europe.

Turf contests require a different skill set from handicappers and there tends to be a lot more nuance to these types of races. Knowledge of different turf conditions, rail positions and the actual features of the course are much more important in UK and European turf racing than you'll find in grass contests in places like North America.

Since may of the racecourses in the UK and Ireland are quite old and quite large in area, the racing surfaces themselves are constructed a bit differently.

Some courses are undulating in parts, some of them involve an uphill final furlong – others will be straight while others turn right or left. Most thoroughbreds tend to be about finding a comfort zone where they perform at their best and it is difficult to make consistent profits if you don't know the ins and outs of the course you're betting on and how this will affect the contenders in the race.

Some racecourses like Newmarket feature two different grass surfaces that both have unique qualities. A contender that wins consistently over the Rowley Mile may not be able to achieve the exact same results on the July course.

It's all About the Finish

The dynamics of turf racing are oriented towards the final few furlongs. In sharp contrast to many dirt of synthetic contests that tend to reward horses that make a stronger start, turf racing tends to be more about turn of foot and the ability to find room and accelerate quickly.

Horses can increase their speed more rapidly on grass than they can on dirt or synthetic and this is why you usually see so much action at the end of a turf contest. This favours contenders with more tactical speed (the ability to quicken on command) and a large stride.

The going, or how the conditions on the ground are rated, is a very important aspect of turf racing with most thoroughbred horses tending to have a preferred type of going. If your contender tends to win over softer going then he likely has less of a chance on a course rated firm or fast. In fact, if the going doesn't suit contenders you will usually see their trainers pull them from the race- the going is that important.

Look for consistent patterns or preferences when handicapping turf races as an unexpected mid-day rain might make that 16/1 longshot a much bigger factor than the bookmakers thought he might be when the forecast called for sun the day before.

A Global Circuit

Turf racing is truly an international affair and it's not uncommon to see contenders ship across the world to participate in high-profile races or simply try their hand on a different circuit that connections think might play to their strengths a bit more. A larger percentage of European shippers into North America tend to compete in turf contests in lieu of over the dirt, though there are exceptions to every rule.

Turf racing is more competitive in the UK and Europe than it is in America so you can generally get some nice payouts when middling European shippers line up against more accomplished local contenders.

A contender with a mixed-record but a few listed scores can usually put in a good shift amongst Grade 3 and Grade 2 company in the United States – especially with the help of raceday medications available in North America like Lasix and Phenylbutazone.

Horses running in other parts of the world can't use this medication while racing so when they get it for the first time it is generally an indication that they could be poised for a bigger performance.

The forecast or exacta wager is particularly dangerous when deployed in turf contests where you expect some longshots to run a good race. A straight exacta or forecast involves you selecting the top two finishers in order. Since the winning margins in a grass race tend to be less, on average, than dirt or synthetic contests you want to give yourself a bit of extra leeway.

When deploying a forecast or exacta in a grass contest with longshot potential, always take in on the each-way or “boxing” it. This will double the cost of your wager, but make it so that your two selections can finish top two in any order.

There is no worse feeling than playing a straight forecast with the favourite on top and a longshot on the bottom when it winds up finishing in the opposite order as you would have won substantially more with your longshot on top rather than on the bottom.

One of the best parts about turf races all over the globe is that they tend to attract big fields and pay off at bigger odds than other types of horse racing. Since there is more nuance to a turf contest, there is more margin for error.

Since horses with bigger odds tend to have more of a chance in a grass race than a race on dirt or synthetic, you can get a bit more adventurous with some of your bets and drift into more “what if” scenarios than you'd find handicapping a dirt race, for instance.

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