The going is the description given about the ground at a certain racecourse. It is measured by the clerk of the course at the racetrack and is determined by the amount of moisture in the ground.
Different horses enjoy different ground conditions and therefore the going reports are vital for a horse’s trainer and owner in deciding when and where a horse should run. A number of terms are used to describe the various types of going and it is important to look back at how a horse has run before in the prevailing conditions. Some horses are specialists on a particular going. Whereas others may be adaptable to different conditions and run effectively on various going types.
The different types of going
Firm ground is often found in the summer during the Flat season when the racing surface is very dry. A dry surface means horses can run faster and often results in the quickest race times.
Good to firm
On the slower side of firm, but still a quick surface. Often if the ground is firm, racecourse staff will add water to the track, especially if there is no rain forecast.
The most common type of ground and arguably the fairest for the majority of horses. It is easy to run on and tracks will often try to ensure good ground in order to suit a wide range of horses and attract bigger fields.
Good to soft
Often occurring in the winter months, good to soft ground is mostly good ground but which is also holding a fair bit of water.
Soft ground is common in the jumps season as the weather tends to be much wetter and the temperature is much lower. This surface is much harder for horses to run on and, as the ground is deeper and moister, horses run much slower. Some horses prefer this going and will run exclusively on ground that is soft.
A real test of a racehorse’s stamina and only very few horses relish this type of ground. It is often very wet and hard to run on as the water soaks into the ground. Often described as a ‘bog’, with reference to how slow this surface rides.
Other types of going
Unique to Irish racing, yielding is equivalent to the British good to soft.
All-weather tracks have an artificial racing surface, often made of sand, among other components. All-weather tracks have different going descriptions to turf racecourses.
The racing surface is quick and dry with minimal moisture. Horses can move quicker and post significantly faster times.
The going is optimal, with neither too much nor too little moisture in the ground.
Similar to soft ground on turf, slow is used to describe a racing surface with moisture in it.
The amount of moisture in the ground is assessed by a numerical reading on the ‘GoingStick’. Introduced in 2007, the GoingStick is poked into the ground and depending on how far the stick goes in, the reading will show how much moisture is in the ground. Before the advent of the GoingStick, clerks of the course measured the going using the heel of their wellies or the pointy end of a walking stick.