How important is the going?

In horse racing parlance, the ‘going’ is the description of the underfoot conditions or, in other words, the state of the ground on a certain racecourse. It is measured by the Clerk of the Course, using a device known as a ‘GoingStick’, the tip of which is pushed into the ground to provide an objective, numerical reading of the moisture content and, hence, the firmness of the going.

Depending on the GoingStick reading, the going is described by a number of terms, ranging from ‘firm’, which is the driest, fastest ground, often experienced in summer during the Flat season, to ‘heavy’, which is the wettest, slowest ground, often experienced in winter during the National Hunt season. On synthetic, all-weather racing surfaces, the going may variously be described as ‘fast’, ‘standard’ or ‘slow’ depending on the moisture content of the surface.

Like human athletes, horses have their own range of requirements. Some, but not all, may be capable of reproducing their best form on any going, but more often they prefer one type of going to another. The going is a crucial variable, which often determines where and when connections decide to run their horses in the first place, and how they perform when they do make it to the racecourse. Thus, from a punting perspective, it is equally important to determine, by reference to the formbook, that a horse is capable of acting on the prevailing going. Indeed, along with fitness and the distance of the race being contested, the going is one of the most important factors to consider when attempting to determine the likely outcome.