Betting On Synthetics


Quotes From Successful Bettors

Barney Curley - a legendary punter whose exploits have filled newspapers and books in Ireland and England for the last 30 years. His book “Giving a Little Back” is a bestseller.

The scourge of the big bookmakers on both sides of the Irish Sea for many years including the Yellow Sam Coup of 1975 when he relieved the bookmakers of a huge amount of money which in today’s terms would be over $2 million.

“Have no fear about synthetic surfaces. They are just as reliable and consistent as turf and a lot more predictable than dirt. I have no worries about having big bets on synthetics. They give me confidence and the form is reliable. It is safe for the horse."


Jim McGrath - not only was he the Managing Director and Chairman of Timeform but a big time player and hugely successful bettor. He is also a Channel 4 TV Racing analyst and handicapper.

“Since the advent of synthetic surfaces, now used on Britain’s all-weather racecourses, there’s no doubt in my mind that punters in this country have gained in confidence that the form produced in most cases is reliable.

Perhaps, not surprisingly, as synthetic surfaces are regarded as fair and reasonably forgiving, horses who really need very soft turf conditions (in effect an extreme of ground) don’t often show their true merit on synthetic surfaces.

Thankfully, synthetic surfaces have changed the game and are well received by the bettors. Understandably there are a few horses that cannot perform on both grass and sand. However, it’s my view nowadays that the majority of Thoroughbreds can.”


Walter Glynn - has been a race reader and handicapper for over 30 years for Race Form UK. He has covered racing on synthetic tracks for over 15 years.

“Punters were in two minds when synthetic surfaces first came around. They soon realized that artificial surfaces were more reliable and consistent than even the best turf. Unlike grass, there is no post position draw bias but just like turf racing, pace of the race is an important factor and jockeyship also plays an important part. The bettors enjoy betting on synthetic surfaces as they believe it is a level playing field.”

MWD Observations

Some handicappers love it when there is a bias because it gives them a so called edge, some don’t want any bias so clearly we cannot please all of the people all of the time.

Although the track superintendent will do all he can to prevent a bias, with the best will in the world, there will occasionally be a golden or slow rail.  The track super can change the track in twenty minutes. 

Our goal is to give speed horses and closers an equal chance.  We want a level playing field.

Some people say that synthetics play like turf races which is not entirely true but if they do, why is that all bad?  The average handle on turf races is higher than dirt races.  

Some people also say that the American horse has been famous for its speed and synthetics will take away that speed.  That is only half true.  The American horse has been famous for its early speed and usually at the end of a race the horses are slowing down and not going as fast.   

Some of the improvements at Tapeta Farm were paid for after landing some good bets of horses that trained well on Tapeta and went to Belmont and Aqueduct and won on the dirt.  
Side Bar - Reverse Change

Human nature being what it is we are all to one degree or another, resistant to change.  It is not unreasonable to have fear of the unknown.  Just supposing America had been racing on synthetics for 100 years and there was a proposal to start dirt racing. How would we explain this to the horsemen and bettors? 
  1. More injuries to horses 
  2. More injuries to jockeys 
  3. The kickback causes great discomfort to horse and rider and will very often eliminate the chance of some horses from coming from behind.  
  4. Tracks with a bias will be much more commonplace; the best horse might not always win.  A golden rail will be more commonplace and on more occasions the race will not be a level playing field.  
  5. The brutal early speed necessary in the first part of the race will put huge pressure on the horses for the first two furlongs and coming to the last two furlongs, the horses will be slowing down and fatigue also leads to more injuries. 
  6. There will be less close finishes and will be commonplace for horses to be strung out like ducks at the head of the stretch with little change of places.  
  7. Rain, even a little rain will change the racetrack in twenty minutes and until a horse has raced in the mud twice it would be difficult to evaluate them.