Basic Action: Before studying any race, bettors have to identify what kind of surface the race is being run on and whether any of the horses in the race are switching to a new surface or one they’ve previously run on. The three surfaces horses in the U.S. run on are dirt, turf (grass) and synthetic.
When assessing a horse’s chances in a race, identify previous races in which it has run on the specific surface it’s running on in the upcoming race (so, if the horse is running in a turf race, look up it’s previous races and weigh most heavily the horse’s races in past turf races). On a very basic level, horses who run well on the turf will tend to not run as well on the dirt, and vice versa. Many horse bettors believe that horses who run well on the turf will generally run well on synthetic surfaces, and vice versa.
Advanced Action: Recognizing surface changes could turn into nice paydays for savvy bettors. If, for example, a horse ran poorly in its previous race or races on the dirt, and then that same horse appears in a turf race which — let’s say for the purposes of this example — they ran well on in the past, an improved effort might be in order.
Additionally, since the horse in our example above hasn’t run well recently on the dirt, they might get overlooked by bettors. If they’re overlooked by most, the bettor who recognizes that the horse has previously run well on the turf might get higher odds on the horse (and hence a higher payout) than might normally be expected.
Just as important as surface recognition and changes in surface, is being able to identify how well a horse might run on a wet track as opposed to a dry track. Along the same lines of horse’s preferring a particular surface (dirt, turf or synthetic), they also tend to prefer certain conditions (either dry or wet).
Some horse’s might have run well previously on the turf, let’s say a wet one (identified as “good” or “yielding” depending on the amount of moisture in the grass), but will not run as well on a dry surface (referred to as a “firm”). So, just identifying surfaces and surface changes isn’t enough; make sure that track conditions are also favorable before betting.