Probably one of the first ingredients you considered when starting to make intelligent race selections would have been the suitability of the going for each horse. Someone in your distant past will have told you that some horses like it soft, others firm and unlocking this vital information is the key to long term profitability. No, sorry I correct myself. The words long term profitability would probably not have dripped form the lips of your particular mentor unless you were extremely lucky. More likely finding the winner of the race was the reason given for scrutinizing the going preferences of each horse.

You can also scarcely avoid references to going when you tune into the popular media. With all this attention to going, one wonders if there is any juice left in this variable. Is it really worth the time and effort? I certainly know one pro punter who backs around 5000 horses per year and never gives a thought to the state of the going.

In this article I will attempt to see if proven ability on the going offers any kind of leg up in the punting world.

First of all lets take a look at previous going wins using rsb software. Setting the variables to handicap races and horses priced up to 15/2 I took a look at the performance of horses with 1 or more previous going wins against those with no going wins (excluding maidens).

Those with a going win (that’s the same going as the race being analysed) produced a strike rate of 17.57% with a loss in the pound of 12.58p

By contrast those horses that had never won on the going and were not maidens produced a strike rate of 17.06% with a loss in the pound of 12.58p, the same as those with a going win.

One might at first think that extreme going would be the areas that produce more contrasting results. On heavy or soft going those horses with no going wins produced a strike rate of 15.91% and a loss of 15.52p in the pound. Those with a going win on heavy or soft produced a strike rate of 16.89% and a loss of 14.73p in the pound.

Switching our attention to firm or hard ground we have non-going winners achieving a strike rate of 18.51% with a 10.35p loss in the pound. Those with a win on firm or hard produced 19.22% winners with a loss of 12.67p in the pound.

The message seems to be that going winners win more often but the gain in your pocket is minimal, as the market seems to compensate fairly effectively. This is not surprising given the attention heaped on the going by media pundits.

Looking at the above perhaps winning on the going is too crude a measure. A horse may have run well on the going without having had the opportunity to register a victory.

In order to check this I again looked at handicap races with the added ingredient of only considering previous past performances in handicap races. I figured that performances in maiden races might give a slightly distorted view as many horses can win in these types of races simply by outclassing the opposition and in spite of the ground. Focusing on handicap races only might give a more balanced view. I also focused on 4yo+ horses only in the hope that this would result in horses with a greater history of achievements on various goings. In order to assess a horse’s ability on the going I looked at the average collateral rating the horse had produced on various goings and highlighted its best. A horse’s best average rating might therefore be on anything from heavy to firm (AW was excluded). I also took its average rating when running on the day of the race going and expressed this as a percentage of its best average. So a horse with a best average of 100 on soft running today on good, with a good average of 75 would be running on a 75% suitable going. Any horses that had not run on the going before were not considered in the results.

Backing all horses with a greater than 75% going suitability who went off at under 8/1 produced the following

Bets = 22558 wins = 3552 PL = –3340 ROI = -14.8%

By contrast backing those with less than 75% suitability produced

Bets = 2508 wins = 408 PL = -201.3 ROI = -8%

Sticking solely with those horses having a 100% suitability produced the following

Bets = 8939 wins = 1440 PL = -1387 ROI = -15.5%

The strike rate for the 100% horses is greater than the 75+ category but the loss in the pound is greater as the market seems to overcompensate.

There is no doubt that going plays a part in winner finding and when you get sudden changes in going, prices can be found to be over generous, but on a daily basis the above suggests that there are better parameters more worthy of study than the going.

Finally a quick look at horses that have not registered a handicap run on the going and in terms of public form leave the average punter relying perhaps on its maiden form or some other avenue of investigation. These horses produced the following

Bets = 10213 wins = 1730 PL = -727.4 ROI = -7.1%

A loss of just over 7p in the pound and the highest strike rate perhaps suggesting that the trainer is running the horse for the first time on the ground because he believes it will act. Maybe this is a more powerful indicator than a routine turn out on the ground.

Phil Bull said the going was the most important thing to consider when having a bet and every media pundit has been repeating it ever since. I am unconvinced that there is any great mileage left in the study of the going.