In horse racing parlance, ‘going’ is the term used to describe underfoot conditions or, in other words, the state of the racing surface. Until 2009, the going was determined subjectively by the Clerk of the Course but, nowadays, is determined objectively by a device called a ‘GoingStick’, which is inserted into the racing surface and produces a numerical reading that reflects the amount of moisture in the ground.
In Britain, on turf racecourses, the going can be described as ‘firm’, ‘good to firm’, ‘good’, ‘good to soft’, ‘soft’ or ‘heavy’, depending upon the GoingStick reading. Historically, ‘hard’ was used to describe the driest, fastest underfoot conditions, but a GoingStick reading higher than 15, which corresponds to ‘firm’, is considered unraceable these days. On synthetic, all-weather racing surfaces, the going can be modified by harrowing or rolling, but is described as ‘fast’, ‘standard’ or ‘slow’, depending on the moisture content.
Some racehorses are capable of acting on any going, but most have specific going preferences, one way or the other. Horses with a high, rounded knee action, for example, often relish soft ground, while those with a low, ‘daisy cutter’ action often prefer faster underfoot conditions. Thus, accurate going descriptions are necessary for the safety of horse racing, in the first place, and to allow trainers, and punters, to make informed decisions about the suitability of the prevailing conditions for any horse.