Australian race clubs use a moveable running rail to ensure that the surface remains as even as possible both close to the rail and further out. If the rail never moved then obviously the inside section of the track would get a lot more wear and tear than the outside and this would create an uneven surface.
So when do we as punters need to consider the position of the rail as a key factor in analyzing the form? Well as a general rule the further the rail is out, the more the leading horses are favoured compared to those racing back in the field that are forced to come wide. There are four main factors to consider when assessing the importance of the rail position:
(1) Width of track/tightness of the turns (2) Length of the straight (3) Seasonal conditions (4) Most recent rail positions
(1) Tight turns and a narrow track mean that it’s very difficult to pull out and go wide around a pack of horses to make up ground. Moonee Valley and Canterbury are relatively tight tracks and this characteristic is exacerbated when the rail is out. There is definitely money to be made in backing on-pace horses at either of these tracks when the rail is out. In contrast the rail position is much less important at spacious tracks like Flemington or Randwick.
(2) The importance of the rail position is increased at tracks with a short straight such as Moonee Valley where there is very little opportunity to make up ground after the turn. Moonee Valley’s straight measures just 173 metres which is less than 40% of the distance of Flemington’s straight (450m). So it makes sense that a horse leading at the turn at Moonee Valley is far more likely to hang on and win than at other tracks like Flemington.
(3) Seasonal conditions are another factor to consider. During winter the inside part of a track can get quite chopped up and be ‘heavier’ than the outside, thus favouring the swoopers. However the opposite can occur during drier times, when the inside can become compacted and race faster than the lusher outside parts of the track. This ‘fast lane’ near the rail favours on-pace horses.
(4) Our race clubs are good at providing information on their schedule for the moveable rail. For example here is Canterbury:
20th November – 3 metres out
4th December – 6 metres out
18th December – Inside
15th January – 2 metres out
29th January – 4 metres out
4th February – 6 metres out
13th February – 8 metres out
19th February– Inside
You can see that the February 13th meeting is highly likely to be dominated by on-pace horses. And for the February 19th meeting they will be racing on the inner part of the track which hasn’t been raced on for basically two months. As a keen punter you can do your own research and consider the four main factors above when analyzing the importance of the rail position for today’s meeting.