Because horses run outdoors, the elements play an important role in racing and which horses are good bets and which are worse. Most people who handicap horse racing know about rain and muddy tracks. There are some horses that run better when the surface is muddy, sloppy, yielding or good. There are also tracks that have a bias when the weather is bad. It could be because the inside of the pitch collects water due to the slope of the slope or for some other reason.
Wise handicappers familiarize themselves with the biases of their favorite venues and use it to evaluate each runner’s chances. But how many people know how to use the wind as a factor or realize the important role it plays? It is important in thoroughbred racing and especially important in harness racing.
Fortunately for handicappers, most racecourses flag the infield of the course, so the wind direction and speed are clear. Crosswinds and headwinds play differently. A crosswind is one that blows over the stretches at about a 90 degree angle. It will therefore blow into the faces of the runners on the turn or will blow into their backs.
In the case of a headwind, the wind blows in the same direction as the sections and will be in the faces or on the bottoms of the runners. In races where the margin is sometimes just a nose or a head, this can make a huge difference. Imagine a 20 or 30 mile wind blowing against a horse running at the front in the stretch. Any horse behind it has the advantage of cover, but the front runner will face the wind head-on at some point, whether running down the backstretch or in the homestretch.
On days when there is a strong head-to-head wind, look for several who are closer to winning. They don’t necessarily need to get far off the pace, but they want to be a horse that sat behind another and benefited from it. If you handicap using course models and running styles, consider the effect of the wind and adjust your game accordingly. On windy days, especially if it’s blowing into their faces, only play a very strong front runner. Such a horse will probably be over betting anyway, as most people don’t use the wind as a factor, so you may want to watch any horse that will run close to it, but take advantage of cover.