There are so many racetracks in Australia, all of varying sizes and designs, that punters must investigate the 'form' of these tracks, as well as the form of the horses.

It is important to know the vagaries of the track at which the horses are racing just as it is important to know the little 'habits'of the runners.

Some horses will perform at their best on larger tracks, others prefer the tight, turning courses that complement their front-running speed and physical size.

Often you will find that the larger horses, with a bold, long-striding action, are unable to cope with the smaller tracks. They are better off racing on the vast stretches of tracks like Flemington and Randwick.

The aim of this series is to introduce PPM readers to all the major tracks in Australia, and a few of the minor ones. Over the past five years, I have carried out intensive research into winning patterns at the tracks and the results of my work you can now read about (another PPM service!)

In this first article, I'll concentrate on the Sydney tracks at Randwick, Warwick Farm, Rosehill and Canterbury and next month I'll tell you all about the metropolitan tracks in Melbourne and Brisbane. Later, there will be articles on the other states and country venues.

Let's look first at Royal Randwick, one of the best tracks in Australia, despite the major problems a couple of years ago that saw it closed down for some time.

The good thing about Randwick is that it is a roomy track with a nice camber on it.

Being more than 2210 m in circumference, it allows runners the opportunity to stretch out and settle down, even in the sprint events.

When the horses turn the final corner, they have an ample 410m straight run to the winning post. It's a testing run, too, because of the famous Randwick Rise around the 250 m mark.

Jockeys love Randwick because they know they do not have to ride as tightly there as at some other courses. They say that you do not have to rely too greatly on tactics, because there is usually plenty of time after turning for home to get your mount going full-bore.

You'll often see horses running home to win from well back on the home turn at Randwick.

As at most tracks, the inside barrier draws are best in the sprint races. My research shows that in races from 1000m to 1600m, you should avoid horses drawn 12 and wider. The best draws are those between 1 and 6.

The 1800m journey usually sees most horses getting every chance, while at 2000m the horses with the inside barriers do best. Even in the really longer races, like 2400 m and 2600 m, it is best to give preference to horses favoured by a draw between 1 and 7.

Canterbury is a track in sharp contrast to Randwick. Where Randwick is spacious, Canterbury is much tighter, offering horses a home stretch of little more than 300m.

Naturally, the layout of the track, and its sharp turns and short run to the wire, favour those horses with the ability to race in a handy position. Coming from behind with a late run can prove difficult.

In staying races, of course, horses able to wait at the rear of the field and then pounce from the home turn. In sprints, Canterbury definitely favours front-runners and gallopers who can park just behind the pace.

You will find that most sensible jockeys will do all they can to ensure their mounts are in the first five or six on the home turn. You should always watch out for solid frontrunning types at Canterbury.

Oddly enough, my statistics show that the barrier draw at the track appears to give most horses an even chance. Barriers 1 to 10 are pretty good over most distances.

Horses drawn 5, 6 and 7 appear to do particularly well in the sprint events, so when you are analysing a race it would be wise to take this into account.

Runners drawn - in barriers 1 and 2 have a good record over the 1200 m and 1250m journeys, a statistic well worth remembering.

Rosehill is a near-square track and has a comfortable home stretch of 413 m, slightly longer than at Randwick. Jockeys say the turns are rather sharp but after negotiating them the track offers runners a chance to settle down with lengthy straight runs.

Quite a number of horses in recent years have appeared to have trouble handling the home turn. This is a pretty tight corner and you will often see a wide 'fan' of runners at this point, obviously not in the favour of those racing towards the rear.

Late finishers have only an ordinary record at Rosehill. Most jockeys who ride there regularly say they do not like to be caught having to make a lot of ground wide from about the 800m mark.

I would say, after studying hundreds of races on video, that most horses that win coming from back on the turn do so by weaving through openings near the rails rather than in coming home wide out.

There is a definite advantage in the key sprint races, between 900m and 1500m, for horses drawn between barriers 1 to 5. My results show that runners in these boxes do very well.

For instance, the 1100 m start has only a rt 300m run to a sharp elbow double turn into the straight. Horses from barrier 8 are at a disadvantage; those in 12 and out are set a tremendous task.

The 1200m races offer inside runners the best chances again. Those drawn outside 10 need to be extra smart, or require lots of good fortune.

Generally, you can assume that any runner drawn wider than 10 at Rosehill - no matter what the race distance - faces some disadvantage.

The Warwick Farm circuit can be a hazardous one for punters. It is a track that suits good gallopers who can race handy to the lead when the final corner is reached.

My statistics show that horses forced to come home late, from rearwards positions on the home turn, are really at a distinct disadvantage. Most often, you will see them being pushed very wide on the home turn and then having to get themselves going again over the shortish 326 m home stretch.

Perhaps more than any other track in Sydney, the Warwick Farm circuit produces 'horses for courses'. A number of gallopers relish the neatly cambered turns.

My study of the effect of barrier positions on the results shows that horses drawn close-in do best over 1200m, but my proviso is that GOOD QUALITY gallopers, with some courage, are capable of winning even if drawn out in 10, 11, 12 and 13.

Over distances between 1400m and 2100 m, you will see that the barriers 1 to 8 are best. Barrier 1 does exceptionally well over the 1600m trip.

In the longer races, horses drawn between 1 and 9 are favoured.

Some jockeys perform better at certain tracks than they do elsewhere. I have compiled lengthy statistics of jockeys' performances at different tracks and mostly they show that the main winning riders at each track do not have a great deal between them.

Mick Dittman has a handy strike rate at Warwick Farm, and so do Kevin Langby, Ron Quinton and Bruce Compton. Dittman's strike rate is excellent - you can expect him to fill a place in 50 per cent of his races. Jim Cassidy, Ron Quinton and Kevin Langby all have excellent strike rates for placings at the Farm.

At Randwick, the jockeys you should follow are Dittman, Cassidy, Noel Barker, Mark de Montfort and Ron Quinton. They all have nice winning percentages.

The best riders for Canterbury are Cassidy and Dittman with first-class strike rates for a win. The jockeys who regularly fill placings there are Dittman, Cassidy, Quinton, Peter Cook and Darren Beadman.

Finally, the jockeys who perform best at Rosehill are Dittman, Quinton and Cassidy; it may also pay you to carefully watch for good mounts ridden by John Marshall. Dittman and Quinton head my list of best place riders at Rosehill.


Next Month: A close look at the metropolitan tracks in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 3.
Click here to read Part 4.

By Statsman