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Track Bias - is it a myth ?



One of the most commonly heard theories in horse racing is track bias.

There are 2 types of track bias :

1) On any given day, a track is more suited to horses running on a particular part of the track across its width (most commonly down the outside on a rain affected track).

2) On any given day, a track is more suited to front or back runners.


There is no doubt that the first type of track bias exists. A horse running on a less cut up part of a rain affected track will tend to run



But the 2nd type of track bias is the one more associated with the term, and is what is addressed in this article. And yet it is also the one with a complete lack of scientific evidence as back-up. This theory intimates that somehow a track is favouring front runners this week, but not next week. Punters are advised to keep an eye on the 'pattern of racing' of the first few races in order to determine the bias for the day. If the track is favouring front runners, then we should back horses whose usual style of racing is from the front. But the reasons for this back or front runners bias remains a complete mystery, even it seems to the proponents of it.


In his book 'Winning Ways', non-believer Gil Dymock pokes fun at the theory. He says

'According to this theory any track, big or small, left-handed or right, will show a bias on any given day. This bias is not fixed. It's not like the bias of a lawn bowl, always going the same way and marked on the weighted side. No, this bias varies from raceday to raceday. One week a track will favour front runners, the next week it will be the back runners turn'.


So, if there is no such thing as front or back runners bias, how did the theory materialise ? Well .... here's the rub. There IS such a thing as track bias. But it is a bias that doesn't vary, because ALL tracks are ALWAYS biased towards front runners. From a study of 300 winners, and where they were positioned on the turn, I found that 65% of them were in the first four runners turning for home. Or conversely, just 35% of all winners came from a midfield or back position.


Now, if the first four races were won by leaders or very handy runners, we would be advised of a front runners bias. However, statistically, this will happen once in every 5 or 6 meetings purely by chance.


On the other hand, how often do you honestly hear the term 'back runners bias' ? Very rarely, I suggest. This is because a sequence of winners coming from the back is statistically far less likely, given that there is only a 35% chance of a single winner coming from midfield or further back. Track bias is almost always associated with front runners bias due to statistical chance.


The track bias theory is an illusion because of the high likelihood of a series of front-running winners. It results from a combination of permanent front runners bias and chance, and not due to any mystical properties of the track itself.

Hamilton, NZ, January 2007


Graeme responded to this article by posting the following to the discussion group :

'Good stuff Peter...and I agree in principle. However, sometimes, mainly due to the persistant moving of the rail...item 1 can dictate item 2 in early races.

There have been regular cases whereby an inside strip dictates that riders do not wish to make ground 3/4 wide...so after a hectic rush for rail positions, the leading rider(s) are able to steady the pace mid race and ensure back-runners have little chance. This is usually offset as the day progresses with the inner strip becoming chopped up...or riders working harder/longer to get handy and across...and thereby assisting back runners.

Like most industries, racing is suffering from inadequate manpower. The days of putting a track back efficiently by hand are gone for most clubs.  This surely affects turnover on early races as larger punters sit back until a true racing surface, or otherwise, is seen to be on offer.'  


If after reading this you also have a point you would like to make on this subject, e-mail me at harrop.nga@xtra.co.nz and I'll include it here.

The Latest (May 2008)

People were asked in a poll on this website :
Do you believe that frontrunners and/or swoopers track bias changes, depending on track conditions.

41 people responded.
37% said Yes
29% said Sometimes
32% said No
2% said I Don't Know

Therefore 66% said they believed in a form of this sort of track bias.