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By Graham Potter | Friday, April 6, 2018

Graham Potter writes a weekly column for the Sunshine Coast daily. Due to demand from those having trouble accessing the paper these columns are now also published on HRO courtesy of the Sunshine Coast daily.

Track ratings are a significant part of any race meeting setup. It is a factor that connections look at to decide whether the race conditions will suit their runners (ie whether they will accept or scratch) and it is an important variable, amongst many others, that is taken into account by punters (read racing's customers) in their search for a winner.

It is not just a number. It is a determination that has to be as accurate as possible.

If that determination is ever seriously flawed it can compromise the relationship between owner and trainer (the trainer says let’s run ... it’s a Good 4 ... and the horse doesn’t handle the soft going and finishes way out of its ground and the trainer is issued a ‘please explain’ notice). It can affect the well-being of the horse (a gut buster run can be a setback to its future programme, not to mention the horse’s confidence) ... and it can play havoc with the punter’s best laid plans.

It can even be argued that such a situation compromises the integrity of the whole situation.

The devil in the detail of track ratings is not a new argument but it is also one that never goes away.

Take the case of the Ipswich meeting on Wednesday for example. There was relatively minimal rain in the morning. There was wind and sunshine in the afternoon (both natural track drying agents) - and no further rain - yet the official track rating for the day deteriorated to an alarming degree from its starting point. It was originally posted as a Good 4 at the start of the day. It went to a Soft 6 after 9am (when final scratchings were already notified). It was a Soft 7 after race 1 and was ultimately downgraded to a Heavy 8 after race 6.

There were several late scratchings because of the track downgrade which disappointed connections and depleted the end racing product. There is no win for anyone in that situation.

Sure, track ratings is not an exact science ... and, yes, most tracks are overworked these days which places pressure on the quality of their racing surface, particularly later in the day.

But track ratings still have to be as accurate as possible and you really have to question whether enough care is being shown in the handling of this important factor ... particularly as it is a point of some concern that the people who should know best, the trainers who see how their horses pull up and the jockeys who ride on the track, often have a very different figure in mind to the rating that is officially posted in the steward’s report.

And I mean often!

Let me rephrase that. It is not a point of some concern. It is a real worry!

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