"Track bias" is a term used to describe how one part of a racetrack may be different from another part.
It could cover many different conditions in such matters as hardness of the surface, angles of the surface from a true flat position, the configuration of turns, the type of surface, where the starting gate is located and so forth.
Track bias is a feature of racing around the world and is not unique to any track or country. It has, however, become a widely discussed topic in racing circles over the last ten to 15 years.
There are three major factors that cause track bias:
- The design and nature of the track
- Usage of the track
There are many design factors that may create a pattern of racing which can advantage or disadvantage horses. Some of these examples are:
- Small tight turning track: - This usually favours front runners.
- Location of starting point: - Starting points close to a turn favour inside drawn horses.
- Radius of turns and design of turn: - Small tight turns favor on-pace runners.
- Track camber (cross falls on turns and in the straight): - This causes bias in wet weather.
- Length of straight run to winning post: - A long straight changes from an on-pace bias to an off-pace bias.
- Type of surface: - This has a major impact on track bias. Even the type of grass affects track bias.
The usage pattern on a track will influence the performance of the track. Racing in many countries has increased considerably over the last 30 years and to help overcome some of the issues associated with the increase, the concept of the movable rail was introduced. Examples of usage affecting track bias:
- Location of movable rail: - This may affects track design and the pattern of racing. Horses racing away from wear near the rail will be advantaged. This is definately the case in Australia for instance.
- Track conditions in regard to track wear: - When the track shows signs of wear, it can favour back markers.
- Excess kickback: - It can favour front runners.
- Track maintenance procedures, such as use of vertidrain, can also matter. Right after track renovation, the track favours front runners for the first part of the programme.
Weather condition will influence track performance. A very dry track can favour on-pace horses. A wet track will often favour off-pace horses. When a grass track dries out quickly after rain, it will often favour leaders or on-pace runners.