Wet Weather Causes too Many Concerns when Handicapping the Horses
The impact of weather on horse racing was evident again Sunday and Monday at Belmont Park, as rain turned a fast track into a sloppy (sealed) surface. Handicapping the horses and races is more difficult when it rains, and the rain is not a handicapper’s friend.
A sloppy track has so many subtle ramifications, and more unexpected race results can occur. Turf races can be forced off the grass and moved to the dirt, and in some cases races are cancelled altogether, which was the case June 17 at Belmont Park when six races were cancelled after unexpected heavy rain hit the area.
A change of surface and wet weather becomes another handicapping hardship and unexpected variable. If the races remain on the grass and rain has been falling consistently then the turf course is usually soft or yielding, meaning that the horses will sink deeper into the track than they normally would. Therefore the horse requires much more energy to run fast, and endurance becomes a bigger factor than the regular speed of the horse. Essentially it’s hard for “explosive” speed horses to fully meet their full potential.
That was the case Sunday for the $500,000 Flower Bowl Stakes (G1) at Belmont. In showery weather, the 6-5 favorite Grand Jete was unable to sustain his lead the entire way on the turf, getting caught by the older mare Dacita, while War Flag made the biggest late move to win the race at 9-1 odds and stamp her ticket to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf Nov. 4 at Del Mar. Trainer Shug McGaughey, who’s never been to Del Mar and couldn’t comment on the Del Mar turf course, said War Flag will make the trip if healthy.
When dirt gets wet it becomes very sloppy and horses regularly have mud kicked back into their faces from the horses ahead, creating unexpected race results. The grip on the track is also much more slippery; often the sloppy dirt track creates similar conditions to a turf track. For some horses this is a favorable change, but generally speaking the horses won’t be accustomed to it.
Given the difference the rainfall makes to the course, the weather conditions are worth your consideration as a bettor. While it’s usually best to pass on those races in rainy or wet weather, you should at least have a general understanding of what to look for and expect if you wager on the races where an off track or change in surface or condition exists.
With a sloppy track, and the many subtle ramifications, you need to know which horses are bred to handle the slop a better than others. Who enjoys it? Who regresses in it? Many trainers simply don’t know how their runner will appreciate the off going. And then we must evaluate the track and understand what maintenance was done besides sealing it. Are there any paths more favorable due to drainage?
Here’s your best bet when wet weather hits the racetrack. Just say NO to wet weather off tracks, and move on to more favorable conditions.