Monday , 19 August 2019

RaceTrack Ratings and Penetrometer Readings

Ascot irrigation
Before there were sprinklers – Ascot’s groundsmen engage in some artificial watering of the track before the Royal meeting in June 1938. Photograph: JA Hampton/Getty Image


The Weather Gods play an important part when determining our race track conditions.

A downpour on Friday could be the difference between your favourite pony being scratched, under performing or blitzing the field

All racetracks are given a rating and scale (from 1-10) on the day of a meeting to describe their condition.

The track rating can vary during the meeting depending on the weather conditions eg wind, rain.

An Ideal Track is rated a Good 3, meaning there is good grass coverage and give in the ground. Some Track Managers will irrigate (water) the track prior to racing if drying conditions are forecast.

The purpose for irrigation is to prevent injuries to horses (especially young horses) by providing a cushioned surface or more “give” in the ground.

FAST 1 A dry, hard track. Firmer than a ‘Good’ Track
GOOD 2 A firm track with a reasonable grass coverage
GOOD 3 Ideal track with some give. Good grass coverage and cushion
DEAD 4 Track with some give. On the worse side of ‘Good’
DEAD 5 Reasonable amount of give in it. Worse side of dead
SLOW 6 Track mildly rain-affected, but will suit some horses more than others
SLOW 7 Rain-affected track that will ‘chop out’. On the better side of ‘Heavy’
HEAVY 8 Soft track, just into heavy conditions but not necessarily too wet
HEAVY 9 Very soft track getting into the ‘squelchy area’, genuinely heavy ground
HEAVY 10 Very soft, wet muddy, heaviest category


When I googled the word Penetrometer I was greeted with some very interesting images. Most of which didn’t relate to horse racing. After a quick spell check I discovered the true meaning of the “Penetrometer”.

Penetrometers and Track ratings go hand in hand. The Penetrometer device has been used for many years to assist Racecourse Managers and Stewards obtain precise track ratings. The Penetrometer derives from the road building industry where they used a similar device to measure the road profile prior to the final surfacing of asphalt. This device was then modified to measure soil hardness in turf – the penetrometer.


PenetrometerPenetrometers are used in the thoroughbred industry by many metropolitan tracks and also some major provincial clubs. The penetrometer reading is obtained using the following method: A 1 kilogram weight is released by a trigger action and falls 1 metre down a shaft, which in-turn hits a 1 centimetre square rod into the soil profile. The 1 centimetre square rod has 1 centimetre increments as the measurement for the depth the rod that has entered into the soil profile. This action is undertaken 3 times in the one position, therefore giving 3 readings eg: 2.5, 4.5, 6.5.

A formula is used to calculate the reading and is based on the average figure for the entire course. To obtain this figure there are 6 readings taken every 200m around course. Three of the 6 readings are taken 2m from the running rail and then the remaining 3 readings are taken 4m from the running rail. Each reading is recorded and then all figures are entered into a formula that will provide an average. This average then becomes your race day penetrometer reading and will correspond to your set ratings – Fast / Good / Dead / Slow / Heavy. Eg: Track – “Good”, Penetrometer – 4.25.

Penetrometer readings will differ from track to track due to varying soil types and rail positions. Therefore you cannot compare readings against different tracks ie Randwick compared to Caulfield.

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