All Weather Horse Racing
There are currently four all-weather tracks in the UK, with a further course in development in Essex. This year there's £5million in prize money for the all-weather season, so racing promises to be the most competitive and exciting yet for those betting at online bookmakers.
The team here at British Bookmakers will take you around the venues, and reveal our key tips and advice for making a killing when betting on horse racing on the sand.
All-weather horse racing often receives the same response from horse racing fans as Marmite gets from lovers of toast you either love it, or you hate it!
Admittedly, the opportunity to watch low-grade horse races taking place on sand at a February meeting at Southwell may not have the same allure as the Gold Cup on Ladies Day at Ascot in the height of summer.
But that's no reason for all-weather horse racing snobbery.
In fact, the UK all-weather racing scene is going from strength to strength - just ask British Bookmakers! And this is good news, hopefully, for punters who endeavour to grind out a profit betting on horse races that are essentially run 'on the beach'.
All Weather Racing Venues
The four venues in the UK that currently stage all-weather flat racing are Lingfield Park in Surrey, Wolverhampton in the Midlands, Kempton Park near Heathrow, and Southwell in Nottinghamshire.
However, this year that list will be boosted to five because a new track is opening at Great Leighs in Essex.
The all-weather horse racing championship kicks into gear just as the traditional flat racing turf season comes to a close in the autumn.
The new all-weather season gets under way in November and culminates in a grand finale at Lingfield Park in March with the running of the Winter Derby.
With around £5 million in prize money, loads of bookmaker signup offers to claim, jockeys' and trainers' championships up for grabs, and opportunities for horses of varying levels of ability, this season should be the most competitive ever staged in the UK.
So which jockeys, horses and trainers should we be following on the all-weather, and how can racing at one artificial track differ compared with that at another?
Hopefully, if you follow this abbreviated guide you'll be on course to make money from bookmakers on the sand!
It may boast a catch-all monicker, but all-weather horse racing bets actually differ slightly at each of the four venues which currently stage the sport in the UK. This is a factor well worth being aware of before you decide to have a bet at a particular track.
With the exception of Kempton, the courses are left-handed.
Racing at Wolverhampton and Southwell takes place around lozenge-shaped tracks, while Lingfield's configuration is more triangular. I will expand upon the significance of this a bit further on.
All Weather Racing Surfaces
One fundamental point you need to get to grips with early on is how the actual racing surface differs from one course to another. Two types of sand are currently used and online bookmakers price their horse racing odds accordingly.
All-weather races held at both Wolverhampton and Lingfield are now run on a material called Polytrack, which is a kind of rubberised sand which minimises the impact of 'kickback' the effect the horses produce as they thunder over a loose-topped sandy surface.
Polytrack's consistent nature means that, luckily for online bookmakers, most races can be run at a good pace, so when having a bet at Lingfield or Wolverhampton it's worth remembering the importance of backing a horse which will see out the trip.
With that in mind, it would be less of a concern for a horse with good form over 12 furlongs at these two courses to get stepped down to race, say, over 10 furlongs.
But it may be more of a problem for a horse which has been doing well over, say, 6 furlongs if its next challenge was to run over a mile or further.
Southwell's 'Fibresand' Course
However, a different racing material known as Fibresand is employed at Southwell. Generally speaking, this produces a more demanding surface compared with Polytrack.
If all-weather racing at Wolverhampton and Lingfield is similar to running on the equivalent of fast going on turf, then Southwell's Fibresand is closer to a turf equivalent of racing on soft or even heavy ground.
Take note of this factor when a horse which has performed well at Wolverhampton or Lingfield is then asked to contest a race at Southwell even if the distance is the same.
Before deciding to have a bet at the best bookmakers in this instance, you should be happy the horse will see out the trip on this different surface.
Lingfield's sharp contours and relatively short finishing straight mean it tends to favour horses who can race up with the pace (or 'handily') rather than long-striding gallopers who need time to wind up their run.
The layout of the track means that horses drawn in double figures tend to be at a disadvantage for races run up to a mile.
Low-drawn horses who can race handily should enjoy a definite advantage when it comes to sprint races over the minimum trip of 5 furlongs. It's a similar story at Wolverhampton. Once again, horses drawn low in 5 and 6-furlong races usually have an advantage.
It's difficult for horses to swing wide into the straight without compromising their chances. But for race distances over a mile or more the impact of the draw diminishes rapidly and the prospect of horse racing betting mistakes reduces dramatically.
We've already heard that the racing surface at Southwell is different to the other tracks and this means the kickback is far more pronounced here than elsewhere. The next time you go to the beach, get someone to throw handfuls of sand in your face and see how much you like it!
For that reason, Southwell tends to benefit horses who can race 'prominently' or who are described as 'strong travellers' because they will avoid as much kickback as possible.
Sticking to these guidelines for all-weather betting should help you take a little more cash from the online bookmakers than the average punter.