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Homeracing

What is a bullring racetrack, and how should you bet one?

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

December 15th, 2021

Generally speaking, there isn’t much variety among North American Thoroughbred racetracks. The majority are one-mile dirt or synthetic ovals, often with smaller turf courses installed inside. But once in a while, you’ll hear the term “bullring racetrack” tossed around—what does it mean?

The definition is actually pretty simple. A bullring racetrack is a smaller-than-normal oval with correspondingly tighter turns.

If a traditional oval is one mile around, a bullring oval might measure six furlongs in circumference. Since many turf courses are seven furlongs around (but are not widely referred to as bullrings), a loose definition of a bullring track is any oval measuring less than seven furlongs in circumference.

List of bullring racetracks in North America

According to the 2021 American Racing Manual, bullring Thoroughbred racetracks in North America include the following:

Tips for betting bullring racetracks

You might be wondering if handicapping races at bullring tracks is different from handicapping races at larger tracks. The answer is yes, there are some key handicapping factors to keep in mind.

For starters, you should be prepared to encounter unfamiliar race configurations. Racing fans are accustomed to thinking of seven-furlong races as sprints held around one turn. But at bullring tracks, seven-furlong races are conducted around two turns, which places more emphasis on stamina. It can even be helpful to think of such races as short routes rather than sprints.

The tightness of the turns is another important consideration. Since bullring tracks are small, their turns are tighter, making it more challenging for horses to corner effectively. Some horses are better at negotiating bullring tracks than others, so when handicapping bullring tracks, it can be helpful to look for horses already proven over tight-turning tracks.

Along similar lines, some jockeys excel at riding bullring tracks. When handicapping bullring tracks, check the leading jockey standings from the last few meets to identify top riders (Equibase.com is a great resource).

For example, the leading jockey at Charles Town in recent years has been Arnaldo Bocachica, who wins at a phenomenal rate exceeding 30%. Betting jockeys with strong records over bullring tracks can be a quick way to find winners.

Now that you’re up to speed on bullring racetracks, you can bet them with a greater sense of knowledge and preparation. Good luck!

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