Six things to know about Australian horse racing

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October 2nd, 2019

Key points for North American bettors to know about Australian Racing

Looking to expand your handicapping horizons? Consider watching and wagering on horse racing in Australia, where such legendary runners as Black Caviar and Winx have made international headlines in recent years.

Racing in Australia has a lot to offer, especially with The Everest early in the year, but there are a few key differences from North American racing that bettors should keep in mind when preparing to play.

The Everest Horse Profile: Two-time defending champion Redzel

To help get you up to speed (and feel more confident in your wagering), here are six things to know about Australia racing:

1. Fractional times are available

If you've hesitated to wager on racing in Europe due to the lack of fractional times available for analysis, you'll be happy to know Australia provides more information. The Australian past performances generated by Sky Racing World (which are freely available through TwinSpires and provide three different race times—the early pace (under the "S1" column), the final 600 meters (under the "S2" column), and the final time (under the "Rtime" column). Simplified running lines are also provided to help gauge running styles.

2. Racetracks are divided into three categories

There are literally hundreds upon hundreds of Thoroughbred racetracks in Australia, making it virtually impossible for handicappers to keep track of them all. Fortunately, you don't have to. Australia racetracks are divided into three categories based on the quality of their racing, and these categories are denoted by a single letter ("M", "P", or "C") following the track's name abbreviation in the Sky Racing World past performances.

What do these abbreviations stand for?

The best racetracks in Australia, offering the highest class of racing, are labeled Metropolitan (M) tracks and include such famous facilities as Randwick and Flemington. A step down the class ladder are Provinicial (P) tracks, while Country (C) tracks represent the bottom tier.

  • Metropolitan (M)
    • ex. Randwick, Flemington
  • Provincial (P)
    • ex. Gosford
  • Country (C)

3. Barrier trials are formal workouts

In Australia, it's common for horses to compete in barrier trials between races, especially when returning from layoffs. These mock training races pit a large number of horses from different stables against each other, usually over a sprint distance.

The formal nature of barrier trials can provide valuable clues to how a horse is training, but don't place too much stock in the raw results. Horses aren't usually asked to go all-out, and even the Australian super mare Winx—famous for winning 33 consecutive races—lost the vast majority of the barrier trials she contested during her decorated career.

4. Distances are measured in meters

Unlike in North America, where race distances are measured in yards, furlongs, and miles, race distances in Australia are measured in meters. When analyzing race times, it's worth remembering that metric distances are slightly shorter than their North American equivalents, and so times are faster.

For example, a horse that sprints 600 meters (about three furlongs) in :33.00 would actually record a time of :33.19 if asked to maintain the same rate of speed over a full three furlongs. A horse that clocks 2,000 meters (about 1 1/4 miles) in 1:59.00 would record a time of 1:59.70 if able to maintain the same rate of speed over 1 1/4 miles.

The following table outlines equivalent distances using both methods of measurement:

5. Course conditions are scientifically measured

Rating the condition of turf courses in North America can seem like more of an art than a science, but in Australia, measuring the moisture in a racecourse is more specific. A penetrometer is used to rate the condition of the course on a 1-to-10 scale, with one representing a very dry "firm" course and ten representing an extremely moist and almost boggy turf course described as "heavy."

The complete list of turf course conditions in Australia is as follows:

6. Program numbers and post positions don't match

Bettors accustomed to the (generally) matching program and post positions numbers in North America will encounter a different setup in Australia. Program numbers in Australia are meant to designate the amount of weight each horse will carry, from the highest weight assignment (horse #1) on down to the lowest assignment. Post positions numbers are assigned separately, so horse #4 might well be breaking from post #10. If post positions will factor in your handicapping, be sure you're looking at the right numbers before placing a bet.

Have fun watching and wagering on Australian racing!