Phil Purser runs the Just Racing website ( which is always well worth a visit for its information and many thought-provoking articles.

An opinion is just that, an opinion – but penetrometers should and do allow us to make a far more correct judgement than just having a guess!

Some people scoff at penetrometers, but if you keep accurate records of penetrometer readings on each particular track you will beat 90per cent of punters who blindly bet on the track assessment given out by stewards.

It’s in the best interests of the almighty dollar to give out track ratings that engender enthusiasm and a warm fuzzy feeling into the hearts of punters, so as to maximise TAB and bookmaker turnover.

A “dead” track is just a little step down from good, but a “slow” track will see many punters sky the towel and either not bet or halve their bets. Going off half cocked is an exercise in futility, so let’s rationally use penetrometer readings from past Doomben meetings – and times run on those days – to tell us whether Doomben was “dead” or “slow” on a recent Saturday when many had differing opinions..

Let’s avoid winter tracks and let’s start from 1/9/04 and work our way through to last Saturday. In that time frame Doomben conducted 32 race meetings but only 5 started off on the morning of the meeting as anything but “good”. Those 5 meetings were (see Table 1):

DatePenetrometerRatingRailOther Information
6/11/045.01Dead6 metresStayed “dead” all day
10/11/045.58Heavy8 metresUpgraded to "slow" before Race 3
26/01/055.40Slow8.5 metresStayed "slow" all day
19/03/054.74Dead3 metresChanged to "good" before Race 6
9/04/055.23Dead7.5 metresStayed "dead" all day
Table 1

Oops! You can see an anomaly already. This “dead” range goes on longer than “War And Peace”! It is in play at a reading of 4.74 and it is still there at 5.01 and still continues at 5.23.  Suddenly, “slow” kicks in somewhere after 5.23, yet at 5.58 is “heavy”! The 5.40 penetrometer reading is not on the stewards’ report on Queensland Racing’s website for that particular day, but I keep records of them, so you can take it as read that is correct.

Now let’s compare apples with apples. If Doomben was “slow” , as some claimed, on April 9 how did the times, IN THE SAME CLASS OF RACE from 26/1/05, stack up?

There were four same classes of race and distance run on both days 26/1/05 and 9/4/05 (see Table 2).

26/1/05Class 61030Potter1.00.4734.50
9/4/05Class 61030Octanee1.00.7634.93
26/1/053yo Class 61350Son of Dane1.22.1534.81
9/4/053yo Open1350Hit The Road1.22.7235.25
26/1/05Class 62050Mail Train2.08.8936.57
9/4/05Class 62050Zariban2.08.0535.92
26/1/05Open1350Top Marc1.20.6535.74
9/4/05Open1350Classic Karla1.21.3335.61
Table 2
The pace or tempo of different races on different days can change. That is acknowledged. However, it would seem incredible that the times and sectionals of those races can be almost identical and yet on 26/1/05 the track was “slow” with a penetrometer of 5.40 and on 9/4/05 the track was “dead” with a penetrometer of 5.23.

To again reiterate why I always say that punters should keep a record of penetrometer readings, have a look at how the higher class horse performances will mirror themselves on different days (given the exact same track and very similar penetrometer readings).

Common runners over the two days were Proudly Agro, which ran 2nd beaten a short neck to Top Marc 26/1/05 then won on April 9. Kings Coup ran 6th on 26/1/05 and he ran 5th to Classic Karla on April 9.

Jimmy The Bear ran 2nd to Pride of Paris beaten 2.3 lengths 26/1/05 and on April 9 ran 4th to Smart Chariot, beaten 3 lengths. Difficult ran 9th 26/1/05 and then ran 9th again Saturday to Classic Karla.

Was the Doomben track “dead” on April 9? On the balance of probability, it was slow.

By Phil Purser