The three major tracks in South Australia - Morphettville, Cheltenham and Victoria Park - are completely different in shape and in the challenge they pose for horse and rider.

Morphettville is a lovely 2400m circumference circuit with a testing run home of around 400 m - enough to test the best of gallopers.

The track has long been recognised as one that gives powerful finishers a strong chance. It really doesn't matter how far a horse is behind on the home turn - it can still motor home and figure in the placings if smart enough.

As the horses take the turn into the straight they are not encountering a sharp bend, but more a sweeping, wide turn that allows all runners to keep balanced.

In the key sprint events - 1050m, 1100 m, 1200 m - any runner wider than 9 has to cope with some disadvantage. The wider they are drawn, the worse the position becomes.

There is a handy 300 m run to the first turn in the 1600m races and statistics show that any runners drawn 10 and wider will be facing anything from a half length to 11/2 lengths' disadvantage. In 1800 m races, there is a slight disadvantage -maybe a length-for-those runners drawn 12 and wider.

There are plenty of races run from the 2000m barrier, including some of South Australia's best events, like the Australasian Oaks. Although the barrier draw is not vitally important, we can assume that horses 10 and wider will be at some slight disadvantage, maybe up to a length, particularly in bigger fields.

The same thinking applies for races from the 2450m start, the 2500m start and the 2600 m start. The longer the race, the smaller the disadvantage.

At the 3200 m start, only runners drawn 12 and wider can be considered to have problems, but they are pretty minor ones to be rated at a length or less.

In contrast to Morphettville, the Cheltenham circuit is shaped rather like a sausage balloon. It is narrow top and bottom and blown out at the sides!

The circuit, described variously as 'tight' and 'awkward', has very severe turns at the 1000 m mark and going out of the straight. Fortunately, the home turn is not so sharp.

It has to be acknowledged that frontrunners have the best winning prospects at Cheltenham, although it is far from a rare sight to see gallopers running on from well back over the 295m home straight.

My advice is to give horses drawn 7 and inside a clear advantage in all races. This applies particularly at the 1350m barrier which, although having a 300m run early, distinctly favours horses drawn close in. Those outside 10 face difficulties of up to 2 lengths.

From the 1450 m start, I like my horses to start from inside barrier 9, and from the 1500 m start, to start from inside 8. There is less of a problem from the 1850 m barrier and only horses drawn 12 and wider are faced with any real difficulties.

There is a run of some 250 m to the first turn from the 2250m barrier and my advice is to steer clear of horses drawn 14 and wider, and show some caution with those between 10 and 13.

I can see no reason why any horse should have a disadvantage from any barrier at the 2400 m start.

Victoria Park is a big track with a very testing 637m home straight, easily the longest in Australia! Jockeys say the Victoria Park circuit undulates a bit too much for total comfort, and they are quick to point out that you can hold your horse up for a long time in the final stretch before letting it go.

Like Flemington in Melbourne, the track has a chute attached to the home straight, from which are run sprint races of 900 m and 1000 m. As is the case at Flemington, it is difficult to pinpoint which barriers are best, as often the going will vary from inside, to centre, to outside. One day the rails going will be faster, another day the outside going will prove the best. The punter is left musing.

I have found over the years that any type of galloper can win at Victoria Park, though front-runners need to possess qualities of courage and stamina not to be run down over the final 100m or so.

From the 1450m start, any runner drawn wider than 7 faces a problem, and those wider than 9 are very much disadvantaged. The 1500 m barrier, which has a longish run to the first corner, poses problems for runners drawn 11 and wider.

Most runners get a good go in the 1600 m races. Forced to offer penalties, I would rate those outside 13 as having anything from 1-2 lengths' disadvantage. The same thinking applies to the 1850 m races.

Only runners drawn very wide need have any major worries in races over 2000 m, while in the 2600 m races I tend to ignore the barrier, unless there is a very big field. In these instances, the runners drawn outside 14 must be penalised up to a length.

Over in Western Australia, the major tracks are Ascot and Belmont Park, with Ascot being the venue for the majority of the west's glamour events, like the 3200 m Perth Cup.

Ascot is an odd, angular type track with a long back straight and a rather short 300m home straight. The barrier draw plays an important role in most races.

In the sprints - 1000 m, 1100 m 1200 m - you have to bear in mind that any runners drawn outside 8 will face problems. Those outside 11 will face severe difficulties. In the 1200m races, the runners drawn 14 and wider are at a distinct disadvantage.

From the 1400m barrier, you must penalise any runners outside 8 at least a length, and those drawn 10 and wider at least 11/2 lengths and up to 21/2 lengths. The same thinking applies to the 1450 m and 1500 m barriers.

Runners drawn 8 and wider are disadvantaged in races from the 1600 m and 1800 m barriers, and the wider they 90 the harder is their task. In all other races - 2200 m, 2400 m and 3200 m - you can say that all runners inside 8 are having an advantage over the others. Basically, though, in the 3200m races the barrier draw shouldn't play a crucial role.

Belmont Park is shaped a bit like the Sandown Park circuit in Melbourne. It is about 1700 m in circumference and has a final home stretch of some 330 m.

In all races, runners drawn 9 and outside will be at some disadvantage. The wider the draw the harder it is to overcome the negative effects.

Horses often run on from well back at the 400 m mark and get up to win at Belmont Park.

There are four key country tracks in South Australia - Murray Bridge, Balaklava, Strathalbyn and Gawler. Here are some potted comments about them:

Murray Bridge:
Has a sharp downward run at the side of the track which leads the runners into the final stretch. Barrier draws are important and, naturally, you should favour those 7 and inside.

Big track. Has a testing 400m run from the turn to the wire, and horses are well able to come from a long way back and win. Sprint races favour runners drawn 7 and inside.

Undulating track, and is favourable to those runners which can adapt to the ups and downs. More than any other country track, inside barriers are a clear advantage at Strathalbyn. Give preference to those 6 and inside.

This track has a very short final straight of some 200m. Obviously, this makes it a track most suited to those horses with early speed, and the ability to lead or be racing in the first four or five, close-up, when the field sweeps for the run to the line. Runners drawn inside 7 have a distinct advantage.


Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.

By Statsman