Slow and heavy tracks are s proven great levellers in racing. A million-dollar son of Danehill can be languishing back near last while the horse by the $1500 sire (who cost $3000 at the yearling sales) is ploughing through the mud and going further ahead with every stride.

A check of any day's racing on wet tracks will generally vindicate this statement.

Another fact that has always amazed me is that broodmare owners give little or no consideration as to whether their foals will be able to handle wet tracks. So, a few years after their breeding plan came to fruition, the horse is ready to race, it rains and the horse has to be scratched. Yet another wasted opportunity.

Let's look at some sires and sirelines:

Danehill represents the Northern Dancer sireline through Danzig. Various branches of the Northern Dancer dynasty have differing adeptness in handling slow or heavy tracks. If you look closely at the bigger picture, there are often reasons why one particular branch of Northern Dancer will outperform the Danehill branch of Northern Dancer.

Take the moderately-priced, South Australian stallion Blevic, a good wet-track sire. This Northern Dancer line horse through Scenic and Sadler's Wells passes on ability to his progeny to handle wet tracks through other genetic criteria that make up his first five generations and they exclude Scenic, Sadler's Wells and Northern Dancer.

Blevic has a double cross of Mr Prospector's father, Native Dancer, whilst the bottom part of his pedigree contains top wet-track sire influences of Biscay and, more particularly, Never Bend.

Why can stallion Danehill Dancer produce some progeny who can eat mud, thus outperforming his father Danehill? A close look at Danehill Dancer's pedigree shows he has no fewer than four crosses of Native Dancer (Mr Prospector's grandfather) in his first five generations plus one cross of Grey Sovereign, which doesn't hurt.

The late Danehill has been intentionally marked very hard, which I believe is fair. When at stud, he had the cream of the crop to his barn.

Also, if you consider his Group I winners, many of his sons' and daughters' dams were by notorious wet-track sires and I honestly believe he "cheated" on some of his results on wet tracks. The following 10 winners will give you an idea of what I mean: Dane Ripper (out of a Sovereign Red mare), Merlene (Luskin Star), Flying Spur (Mr Prospector), Nothin'Leica Dane (Sir Tristram), Danasinga (Ahonoora), Dashing Eagle (Luskin Star), Joie Denise (Seventh Hussar), Magic Of Sydney (Sovereign Edition), Redoute's Choice (Canny Lad) and Fairy King Prawn (Twig Moss).

So I think it's fair to assume that many of the aforesaid 10 horses would have handled a wet track if they had gone to Mr Ed!

Over 60 sons of Danehill will stand in Australia in the 2003/04 season. Some of his sons, like Danehill Dancer and Queensland based stallion Dantibes, have proven they can throw a horse to handle a wet track (without a big infusion of help from the broodmare's pedigree) so they get marked well, but a sire like Catbird would be expected to throw very ordinary wet-track progeny, being by Danehill out of a Marscay mare.

So instead of his damline picking up some bonus points to help his progeny out, all Marscay does is the reverse.

On the subject of Marscay, the wet-track achievements of his sons and daughters could fit on the back of a postage stamp, yet, as with Danehill, you will see different crosses that produce good wet-track horses.

The most apparent is Blazing Reality, a grandson of Marscay through Blazing Sword. Once again, a look at his extended pedigree tells us why. Blazing Reality's sire, Blazing Sword, is out of a Lunchtime mare whilst Blazing Reality's dam is by River Rough, a son of wet-track wizard Brigand.

So the Marscay factor gets overwhelmed by dominant wettrack sires. That Lunchtime line just keeps stamping wet-trackers through, initially, a horse like his son Snippets, and now Picknicker (Snippets' son).

Octagonal struggles to throw wettrack horses but I'm sure that his son Lonhro will be able to throw horses who can handle the wet as Lonhro's damline (Straight Strike) indicates that this will be the case.

Why Octagonal (put to top-quality wet-track broodmares by stallions like Canny Lad) cannot produce "ducks" is beyond explanation.

Zabeel's sons should be adept in wet ground except for when they are crossed with Danehill mares, which will happen eventually. Whether that cross will be able to handle wet tracks, given multiple infusions of different branches of Northern Dancer, remains to be seen.

I tend to think that the Sir Tristram factor (Zabeel's sire) might override that. When at stud, some of Zabeel's sons - if they have the right crosses - should produce outstanding wettrackers.

Some dominant stallions just seem to stamp their line for decades. Mr Prospector's line loves wet tracks. I cannot find one branch of his family, over 20-odd years, that hates wet tracks.

The Thatching (UK) line has created its own wet-track dynasty and, in my opinion, ranks second only to Mr Prospector's lines. Thatching's line can be 'very obscure, but you can bet they'll handle the wet. Thatching was a flying machine and won the time-honoured European championship, the Group 1 July Cup.

His tradition for throwing fast horses on wet or dry ground has continued through his Victorian based son Rustic Amber and Rustic Amber's son, the Queensland-based stallion Sequalo. When you consider that Thatching was foaled in 1975, it shows that his influence is still strong nearly 30 years later.

Shuttle stallion Puissance and his son Mind Games (who stands in New South Wales) represent the Thatching sireline. Archway is yet another son of Thatching known for his ability to breed "ducks".

Just to keep it in the family, respected Australian wet-track sire Geiger Counter is a half brother to Thatch (the sire of Thatching) and a son of Geiger Counter, Canadian Silver, stands in Queensland and his progeny go well in the wet.

Most first season sires are given a rating of 80 on my scale (see, while some are higher, some are lower. The breeding of young sires Over, Seven Figures and Show A Heart suggests they will make top wettrack sires of the future and their individual ratings have been extended to 100.

Don't forget that even though my analyses of over 850 stallions may be reasonably accurate, other variables (apart from a horse's ability to handle slow and heavy tracks) will come into play on raceday.

Factors like level of fitness and suitability at track and/or distance will all be relevant. A horse may handle a heavy track beautifully but, if it isn't fit, it will be gone by the turn!

In conclusion, people will continue to prognosticate for years to come as to why some horses will handle wet tracks and some won't. When we crack the code on why Tiger Woods' sister can't play golf or why Mick Dittman's sister keeps falling off her pony ... then and only then will we be able to address the "wet-track racehorse riddle". Until then, we'll have to play with the cards we are dealt and just rely on historical race results.

Probably only 1 per cent of the punting population has ever mastered the art of consistently backing winners on fast, good or dead tracks, so when tracks are slow or heavy, most punters go into meltdown mode.

Punters find backing slow horses on fast tracks is as frustrating as backing fast horses on slow tracks. I haven't cracked the code either, or I'd be in the Bahamas being fed grapes by some glamour gal!

Over the years, I genuinely believe that I've learned a few things that, followed over the long term, should help those punters who insist on betting on wet tracks to show more profitable results.

All punters should take the opportunity to educate themselves by simply buying a quality formguide like Sportsman or Winning Post.

The reason these two formguides were selected is that they contain very vital information - the name of the broodmare's sire. Once you know the sire and the broodmare's sire of the horse you are considering backing, you are a fair way towards knowing whether your form assessment is right or wrong.

I educated myself by sitting down with a formguide at the END of a day's racing on heavy or slow tracks and mentally absorbing the stallions' names (sire and broodmare's sire) who threw placegetters at the meeting or horses who ran good races, etc.

After a period of time you are comfortable with (six months-plus recommended), you will be able to sit down with a pen before the day's racing starts (armed with the sire and broodmare sire information) and mark each horse as YES (it will handle the slow or heavy track) or NO (it won't handle the slow or heavy track), or MAYBE (it has a 50/50 chance of handling slow or heavy tracks, i.e. sire throws "ducks", broodmare sire's progeny generally ordinary).

Then see at the end of the day how you went. You need to keep working on it because you'll keep coming across new sires' names all the time and you need to have a knowledge of the wet-track ability of progeny from a minimum of, say, 500 sires.

In general, the Australian breeding industry over the next decade will be dominated by four stallions.

Let's look at those four stallions and assess them with a view to wet tracks.

Sons of Danehill have gone to stud in their droves. Danehill was not renowned for breeding "ducks" so it's fair to assume that most of his sons will produce very ordinary wet-track horses.

I feel that most of his sons will fail at stud in terms of being able to produce good horses on good tracks so producing good horses on slow and heavy tracks, given Danehill's own record, makes them highly questionable commodities.

Various lines of Mr Prospector continue to emerge internationally and come into Australia. Most share two common denominators: (1) their progeny can handle wet tracks, and (2) the fact that they often have leg imperfections means that the "sting" out of the tracks works in their favour.

Sons of Zabeel should produce progeny that can handle wet tracks. In a separate issue, sons of Zabeel should throw the soundest horses because they are less likely to be pushed to make the grade as 2yo's, so the extra time will generally assure longer racing careers.

Sons of Octagonal will be highly likely to fail in terms of producing wet-track progeny. Why he struggles to throw  ducks" is questionable. He has been put to good-quality Canny Lad mares and you would think that the resultant offspring would eat mud - but they don't necessarily go a yard in it.

That's really an incredible fact and one that always has me querying how dominant he really is as a stallion (with a very high service fee), but that's another story for another day.

It's fair to say that Mr Prospector's dominant hereditary influences of speed, leg imperfections and ability to handle wet tracks are still coming through his sire sons and grandsons today, yet he first served a mare back in about 1983.

Whether Danehill, Zabeel and Octagonal can dominate the genetic characteristics of their sons and grandsons for over 20 years, and then single-handedly produce cumulatively well over 400 stakes winners (as both a sire and broodmare sire), remains to be seen!

So, even when you have gained a good knowledge of sires, there are still numerous other variables to consider. I have reviewed the following statements and believe sincerely that they should be considered before betting on a slow or heavy track.

DON'T BACK a horse first-up from a long spell (more than three months since last start) on slow or heavy tracks. For the odd ones that do win, they generally get beaten second-up as they've had the stuffing knocked out of them first up.

DO BACK horses who are race fit and bred to handle slow and heavy tracks, even if their race form is ordinary. For instance, a horse's form may be ordinary because it is "feeling its legs" on fast tracks and the cushioning effect of a wet track can cause a major form reversal. Hence some horses only perform on wet tracks.

WIDE BARRIERS are often an advantage. Horses can avoid the ploughed-up area on the fence and be out wide, often in the better going, when ready to make a run. The inside draw horses may have to try to get across six or eight horses off the fence but may have no option but to stay where they are.

"SWITCHED-ON" apprentices with a 3kg claim win a lot of races on heavy and slow tracks. It's obvious that a horse ploughing through mud has an advantage when the load is 3kg lighter.

AVOID BACKING topweights in handicaps with no claim. Whilst it is accepted that topweights are the best horses, highly weighted horses and slow or heavy tracks don't mix financially in the long term.

DON'T RULE a horse out entirely just because it's had, say, two tries on a slow track and one try on a heavy track for no placings. Start saying it is hopeless in the wet if it hasn't run a place after five runs. It could have been first-up, had a lot of weight, drawn barrier 1 in the last race of the day when the track resembled a rice paddy, etc.

Some horses seem to learn to handle wet tracks through racing on them (but not many), while some good young wet-track horses become ordinary on the same surfaces when older. It remains a mystery.

DIFFERENT TRACK textures (soil mixes) will mean that a horse might win like Phar Lap on a heavy track on Moonee Valley's strathayr surface, then two weeks later run 10th at Flemington as even-money favourite. Doomben wet-track winners don't necessarily perform when walked across the two-lane road to Eagle Farm.

AVOID BETTING in first-starter 2yo races. The answer will almost assuredly be a pineapple and your money would be better given to a charity of your choice rather than to TABs or bookmakers! The reasons to avoid betting are:

  1. Impatient owners who insist their horse starts because "Uncle Billy and Aunty Gwen" want to see it run!
  2. Impatient trainers who say to their owners: "0h, hell, if we don't run, we'll never know if it handles the wet." And the trainer can use the wet track as the excuse for non-performance!

The 2yo's inexperience will maybe mean it is asked to race three to five horses off the fence (wider in the straight) when all it's been trained to do in its entire short life is follow a running rail.

AVOID BETTING on slow or heavy tracks until a pattern emerges from the first couple of races, i.e. are leaders advantaged? Is the only place to win hard up on the fence? Are swoopers no hope? And so on.

MAKE YOUR own interpretation of the official stewards' track rating. The track may be rated as slow but times may indicate it's heavy and yet the stewards don't change the rating. Stewards must assess a track on its worst part, i.e. a track may be dead except for a 20-metre area at the 500-metre mark which they rate as slow. Stewards must then issue a slow rating. REMEMBER THAT most professional punters don't bet on slow or heavy tracks. If you must bet, it's wise to be cautious and maybe halve your normal investments.

SOME HORSES are bred to be "ducks" yet simply lack ability. Always remember a male professor can marry a female professor and there is no law to say the resultant child won't be the class dunce.

FULL BROTHERS and full sisters may handle wet tracks totally differently (i.e. the brother may be a "duck" and his sister won't go a yard in it). In human comparison terms again, just because Tiger Woods is a great golfer doesn't mean his sister could hold her own playing socially at Birdsville.

Check to see if the horses have any slow or heavy track form or, more specifically, if they have any slow or heavy track form at today's track. It would be probable that a horse who handled a heavy track with a penetrometer reading of 6.1 at Flemington would, two weeks later, handle a heavy track there with a penetrometer reading of 5.7.

NEW ZEALAND-BRED horses are historically more adept at handling slow and heavy tracks. Why is that so? The answer, to my mind, is that from the day they are born they have two vital factors going for them: (a) NZ has heavy annual rainfall so young horses learn to get confidence galloping around in soft conditions, and (b) they are often reared in undulating to hilly country so they learn to gallop properly, i.e. dropping their weight to push off on their back legs.

Jockeys in Australia often tell owners of 2yo's that their horse did nothing in the race because "it has no idea how to gallop - it's all arms and legs". This, in my opinion, is the result of never being able to gallop on anything bar relatively flat country from birth, or being locked in a stable for long periods of time while being prepared for yearling sales, etc. instead of being out in a hilly paddock learning to gallop.

Phil Purser's website is It contains a full list of some 1000 sires with their wet-track ratings.

By Phill Purser