Watering – A thorny issue for punters

Watering the track can be controversial

PICTURE: John Grossick (racingpost.com/photos) Watering – A thorny issue for punters By David Baxter 5:30pM 11 AUG 2016

WATERING is a hot topic among horsemen – and also among punters.

A common gripe for punters is when the going turns out to be softer than advertised and watering is perceived to have played a role.

The difference in the going is sometimes not revealed until after the first race, when jockeys have ridden on the surface, which does not help punters who have placed bets in advance and or on the basis of erroneous information.

Racing Post tipster Richard Birch, writing on Tuesday, said: "Watering should only be allowed to promote grass growth, not to radically alter the going, which happens on a depressingly regular basis at some tracks."

Maintenance no problem

Professional punter Ken Pitterson believes an independent body to monitor the going and provide an accurate description would be a welcome addition to British racing.

"You've done all your homework and then you get to the course and find the clerk has overwatered and it's softer than you anticipated," Pitterson says. "I've got no argument with watering to maintain the ground, but I hate it when they water and change the ground."

Pitterson thinks there is a tendency for clerks to reach for the sprinklers too quickly, and adds: "What annoys me is with the summer we've had Ken Pitterson: "In the height of the summer you expect fast ground" there's been a lot of rain and a lot of soft ground. As soon as we get good to firm in the ground, clerks of the course water, which doesn't give fast-ground horses a chance.

"In the height of summer you expect it to be fast ground. The soft-ground horses have had their chances at the start of the season."

Pitterson adds: "Someone who isn't attached to the racecourse would give everyone an independent view of what the ground is like. I think that would be fairest."

Bad for betting

Like Pitterson, Simon Rowlands of the Horseracing Bettors Forum, a body launched by the BHA in 2015 to reflect the views of punters, would advocate an independent body to oversee the going. He says: "Confidence in the system might be improved if there was an independent way of verifying whether the ground was actually as described."

Regarding watering specifically, he adds: "We just ask that clerks of the course stick to the directive given by British racing rather than trying to take it one step further and ensuring something other than good, fast ground.

"The consequences of overwatering, particularly if there is rain, unexpected or otherwise, can mean a very different going to that which was anticipated and a host of non-runners, which will be harmful for punters and for betting more widely."

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