Victoria can proudly boast many of the best country racetracks in Australia. Quite a number of them offer spacious, testing courses which offer every runner a chance.

The best courses, in my opinion, are Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo and Warrnambool, so we'll look first at them in this third article in our series on the secrets of the racetracks of Australia.

Geelong is a roomy, flat course of some 2043 m with a home straight of 400m - certainly long enough to give most horses the chance to come from the rear and win.

The track runs downhill from the back straight to the home turn, and runners hit a slight rise up the straight to the post. The barrier draw does not play an over-significant role, but runners starting from outside 8 at the 1100 m barrier are at a distinct disadvantage, while from the 1200 m you can usually assume there is a length or so disadvantage for those drawn 9 and wider.

My statistics show that over the longer distances you don't need to concern yourself too much with the barrier draw. Over the 1400 m, all runners up to about barrier 12 have no distinct disadvantage.

Ballarat is another spacious track, and it has a home straight that holds particular terrors for any galloper with a weak heart. The straight goes up and even undulates a bit, and there is little doubt that it favours horses that can run home strongly. I generally mark down all horses from barrier 12 out as having at least a length's disadvantage from all starts.

The 'new' 1400 m start tends to favour horses drawn from 1 to 7.

Bendigo is shaped on a similar line to the American-style Sandown Park circuit in Melbourne.

There is a definite rise - of about 3 m or so - in the straight, which makes it a testing one for all horses. My studies show that it tends to offer very good chances to horses who rely on storming home with a late burst. Very often, any galloper that leads the charge into the 420m home stretch will miss out on running a place.

In general, runners drawn outside 10 at the 1200m start are at some disadvantage. Figures show that horses can come from outside barriers and win at this track.

Warrnambool is a well laid-out flat design track and, oddly enough, many winners come from wide barriers in the 1200 m races here. The home straight is long - 375 m - and testing, and like Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong, it favours those horses who finish on well. I don't take too much notice of the barrier draws at this track, but, naturally, you have to assume that any runners drawn wider than 10 will be at some disadvantage.

I would penalise them, for ratings purposes, at about 1/2 kg or 1 kg for the widest drawn in big fields. 

I'll now go through the other major Victorian tracks in alphabetical order: 

Big, 1700 m course that has a difficult 5 m incline from the 600 m pole to the winning post. The statistics show that barriers 4 to 10 are the best at all the starts. In the 1000 m races I usually penalise runners drawn outside 8, and am harsh on those in 12 and wider.

This is another track shaped like the Sandown Park circuit. It has a circumference of almost 2000m and a home straight of 400 m. There is a downhill run from the 800 m to the 400 m and an uphill run from the 1700 m to the 1200m mark. The straight has a slight rise in it, and my figures show a definite advantage for runners drawn between 1 and 7 in the 1100 m, 1200 m, 1400 m and 2000 m races.

Here we have an undulating track, which dips down the back and, in the straight, has an incline of some 4 m. There is an old saying that only good horses can win at Kilmore. The straight is about 320 m. Stick with runners drawn between 1 and 9.

A nice track but it seems to suit front-runners. The circumference is about 1655m and the home straight a mere 250 m, a clear indication that it's a tough course if you have a horse which needs to reserve its best for a late finish. Strangely enough, statistics show that a lot of winners in the 1100 m races come from barriers between 7 and 11. Nevertheless, Kyneton is a turning track and it really does favour the front-running gallopers.

A good, flat course of about 1720 m with a 250 m home straight. Winners from the 1100m, 1200m and 1600m marks usually come from between 1 and 8. You can generally assume that there is 1/2 kg to 11/2 kg disadvantage for runners drawn outside 10 at the 1100 m and 1200 m barriers.

This course has a very testing uphill straight of some 200 m - in other words, short but sharp. The track has a circumference of about 1800m and generally it has a reputation as being a track for front-running gallopers. It is best to stick with horses drawn 8 and inside in the sprint races and over the 1500m trip. Don't worry about the barriers in longer events.

One of the smallest tracks around - only 1400 m in circumference it is suited to front-runners and those horses with the ability to race handy to the pace. Horses drawn 9 and outside are at a disadvantage in the sprints. The 1300 m and 1400 m events are often won by runners in middle to wide draws. Usually, though, you should give preference to inside barriers.

In contrast to Pakenham, this is a roomy circuit of about 2000 m and has a long 400 m straight - a testing one, too.

It's a flat track with good runs and you'll often see runners from wide barriers getting up to win and run placings. Assume a slight disadvantage for runners drawn 10 and wider between 1000 m and 2200 m.

This track is about 1800 m in circumference with a 350m home stretch. It is a flat course with good runs from most starts. Runners outside 10 are at some disadvantage. The 2200 m start gives runners a long sweep to the first turn and the draw matters little. The 1200m start also has a good run to the home turn.

Heart-shaped, this track is 1700 m in circumference and has downhill runs from the 1400m to the 1200m. The course was upgraded a year or two back. Chutes were extended to include 1100m and 1600m starts. There are chute starts, too, for 1000 m and 1500 m races. All runners drawn inside 9 have an advantage. Penalise runners drawn 11 outwards between a 1/2 kg and 11/2 kg.

Yarra Glen:
Looks a bit like a horseshoe and has a circumference of some 1600m with a home straight of 300m. There is a well-banked turn from the 500m to the 300m. Front runners and horses who parkjust behind the pace are best suited. Be wary of horses that have to finish on late.

Other minor tracks:
2000 m circumference, 350 m home straight, suits late finishers.

1595 m, 280 m home straight, turning track, suits front runners. Inside barriers an advantage.

1540m, 200m home straight suits speedy types, front runners often win. Outside draws OK at 1400m barrier.

1800m, 275m home straight, well-laid out, no real advantage in draws. Slight downhill run to finish line. All starts have at least 300 m run to first bend.

Stony Creek:
1690m, 340m home straight, fails sharply from 1000 m mark, up to 500 m, down again and then rises. Said to be a tough track: horses that win here can win in the city. Slight aid to be drawn close to the rails in sprints.

1600m, 250m home straight, flat course with an incline from home turn to the post. Horses can win from middle and wide barriers.

1800m, 350m home straight, flat course, barriers not of much significance. Runners drawn wide do well from 1600m start, which begins from a chute.

1880 m, 400 m home straight, good runs from 1400m and 1700m starts. Statistics reveal that runners can win from any position. Nice, long run to the judge.

1600 m, 445 m home straight, flat track, jockeys like it. Inside runners distinct advantage from 1400m start. Late finishers often do well here because of the long final stretch.

1600m, 400m home straight, flat, nicely laid out track, barrier draws of little consequence. Late closers do well.

Swan Hill:
1876 m, 461 m home straight. Uphill to 1000 m then downhill to the wire. There are good, long runs from most barriers. Suits horses that can finish strongly. Horses can be well back on turn and still win.

1811 m, 350 m home straight, good runs from 1000m and 1400m starts. Horses drawn between 1 and 7 do best from 1200 m and 1600 m gates.

St. Arnaud:
1600m, 250m home straight. All runners in inside draws have a distinct advantage. Turning track that suits speedy types who can lead or race up on the pace.

1740m, 350m home straight, suits any type of runner, uphill from 1400 m to 1000 m pole, then downhill to 400m mark. Horses drawn wide at 1200 m and 1600 m have good chances.

2000 m, home straight 385m, has an uphill straight that can whittle the weakies out. Outside runners have an advantage in the 1000 m races.

1640m, 350m home straight, inside barriers are good from all starts.

2040 m, 400 m home straight, flat track well suited to inside barriers. Horses drawn wide can win from the 1400 m start.


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Click here to read Part 4.

By Statsman