Are Turf Races Safer Than Dirt?

min read
Horses racing on a turf race course.
BetMGM @BETMGM Jul 12, 2022, 4:39 AM

Horse racing, known as the sport of kings, has been around since humans first tamed the equine beasts enough to ride them. History shows that the sport took place in ancient Greece, Rome, Babylon, Syria and Egypt – no doubt on a variety of surfaces. In 18th century Britain, horse racing and its spin-off pastime of gambling became more prominent, with the Newmarket Racecourse becoming the UK’s headquarters for the sport.

Over the years, horse racing has undergone many changes to improve the safety, speed and outcome of racing events. There are now different types of races; horses bred for certain races or all types of races; specialist jockeys; even changes in track surfaces. If you’ve developed an interest in online horse racing and want to put some money on a horse, we suggest you take a look at the specific attributes of the relevant racecourse and how they could affect the performance of your chosen steed.

One of the more recent evolutions in the sport is the track surface, with synthetic tracks having been introduced alongside dirt and turf tracks. Each type of surface affects the horse in significantly different ways. We’re going to take a closer look at these effects to help you find out which is best and decide for yourself whether turf races are safer than dirt ones.

Let’s start by looking at the three types of tracks that dominate horse racing today.

The dirt track

The dirt track (composed mainly of packed soil) is the most common track in the United States. It’s the most affordable type of track to maintain but is also harder on the horses and more prone to being affected by rain than turf or synthetic tracks. Water can make the track muddy and slippery, resulting in more injuries for the animal and rider. In the event of rain, track owners will protect a dirt track by sealing it to keep the surface hard. They will compress the top layer to have water skim off the top and not sink into the ground.

If you’re going to place a bet on a horse racing in wet weather on a dirt track, you need to take track biases into account. A good jockey will use the bias to their advantage depending on where these biases are and the type of performance expected from the horse.

The concern with dirt tracks is that the harder surface means less shock absorption and more danger to a horse’s legs, especially if it hasn’t been trained or prepared properly for the surface. The various horse racing bodies are looking into how dirt-track racing can be made safer for all concerned, especially the horses.

The turf track

Made of natural grass, the turf track is the most popular flat track in the European racing circuit and is less stressful on the horse. The grass provides an added adhesion to the ground for the horse, and there’s no danger of flying clods of mud and dirt being thrown up by the front runners. The surface also provides a slightly softer landing for the jockeys should they become unseated during the race.

The disadvantage of a turf track is that race times are longer as the race builds from a slow pace to a thundering rapid sprint to the finish line. The winner of a turf-track race is the horse that can hold its own at speed over the last quarter mile – a good tip to remember when looking at the horse racing picks for your next bet.

The synthetic track

The synthetic track is the safest of them all but also the most expensive to maintain. There are three main types of synthetic tracks: Polytrack is made from sand, carpet, spandex and rubber; Tapeta is made by combining silica sand, wax and fibers to simulate the root structure of turf; and cushion track is a mix of sand, fiber and wax. The real bonus of a synthetic track is that it remains unaffected by the weather and even previous events. This means races can be run continuously – as can online sports betting.

Thinking of putting some money down on a race?

If you’re looking at horse race betting odds to determine who to put your money on, we suggest you look at both the horse and where it’s racing.

As with many sports lately, participants are no longer one-trick ponies (if you’ll forgive the pun) but have had to master different elements of the game. It’s no different in horse racing, so it’s important to look at a horse’s overall performance and placings during previous events with similar weather patterns and surfaces. You should also keep track of how much effort, time and money has been spent on track consistency. You can check out the local horse racing news online and in print for this information.

While being at the track itself is exciting, you can’t always be there. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on all the action. BetMGM is one of America’s leading online betting and casino sites. Once you’ve registered here, you can enjoy all the benefits of betting on your next favorite from the comfort of your chair. 

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.