When the Going Gets Tough: How to Profit from Trainer Preference for Ground Conditions

The ‘going’ in a race relates to the type of conditions underfoot on the course, and it can have a major impact on a horse’s performance. In fact, trainers are not afraid to withdraw a horse from a race if they believe the going is unsuitable for their entry. The going is ‘soft’ or ‘slow’ when there is a lot of moisture on the ground, and it is ‘firm’ or ‘fast’ if the ground is dry.

Most punters know that a particular horse will either excel or crumble depending on the going but what about trainers? Are there any UK trainers on the flat that specialize in any type of going? The answer is of course ‘yes’ and I will investigate further in this article. Although there are multiple types of going, I am focusing on Soft, Good to Soft, Good and Good to Firm as they are four of the main ground conditions in the UK.

Richard Fahey

Fahey is by far the most prolific trainer regarding runners in 2017, so there is plenty of potential as he surely performs well when the ground is in a certain condition? Using data from the beginning of 2013, here is Fahey’s statistics when you look at Soft, Good, Good to Soft and Good to Firm ground:

Bets  Wins  Strike Rate ROI (SP) ROI (BF)
3778 501 13.26% -10.99% 3.06%


There is already encouraging news with a Betfair ROI of just above 3%. Now let’s divide the data into the four types of going:

Going Bets Wins Strike Rate ROI (SP) ROI (BF)
Soft 785 126 16.05% 1.48% 15.91%
Good 1841 228 12.38% -11.57% 4.32%
Good to Soft 1051 132 12.56% -19.76% -9.15%
Good to Firm 1744 215 12.33% -23.26% -10.03%

As you can see, Fahey has performed well on Soft ground over the last few years with a Betfair profit of almost 16%. Furthermore, he managed a 10%+ Betfair profit in 2013, 2015 and 2016. In 2017, he is down 6.75% on Soft ground, but given the fact he is profitable over the previous 4 years, it is worth looking at for future reference. He offers a small profit over Good ground but doesn’t fare so well on the other types of going.

Aiden O’Brien

Although O’Brien hasn’t been as active as other trainers in 2017, he is still leading the Flat Trainer’s Championship even though he only has 10 wins from 43 races. Let’s divide his performance since 2013 into different Going categories.

Going  Bets  Wins Strike Rate  ROI (SP)  ROI (BF)
Soft  207 43 20.77% -24.09% -15.56%
Good  661 126 19.06% -17.12% 4.93%
Good to Soft 64 11 17.19% 26.84% 59.14%
Good to Firm 708 187 26.41% 0.5% 18.06%

It’s obvious that O’Brien excels over Good to Firm ground. He has provided punters with consistent profit each year since 2013 over this going with double digit ROI in 4 of the 5 years and a 12.89% return on Betfair so far in 2017. He also does extremely well on Good to Soft ground, but with just 64 runners since 2013, you’ll be waiting for a chance! Avoid his entries on Soft ground if you value your money.

JHM Gosden 

John Gosden is currently second in the Trainer’s Championship behind O’Brien so let’s see if he has any preferred ground for his horses.

Going  Bets  Wins Strike Rate  ROI (SP)  ROI (BF)
Soft  253 48 18.97% -16.75% -17.36%
Good  576 132 22.92% 19.24% 42.8%
Good to Soft 315 51 16.19% -32.78% -27.83%
Good to Firm 616 141 22.89% 12.88% 28.74%

Gosden excels on Good to Firm ground with a near 29% profit since 2013. He has enjoyed an ROI of over 35% over this kind of ground in 2015 and 2016 and is currently in the midst of a hot streak in 2017 with the ROI standing at 97%! His statistics are even better over Good ground with a Betfair ROI of over 42%. Punters would be down almost 7% in 2017, but since he has enjoyed a profit of over 35% in 3 of the previous 4 years, it is well worth sticking with Gosden over Good ground too. It is best to steer clear on Soft and Good to Soft ground.

Keith Dalgleish 

I conclude with yet another prolific flat trainer that has had almost 300 runners so far this season.

Going  Bets  Wins Strike Rate  ROI (SP)  ROI (BF)
Soft  224 31 13.84% -16.74% -2.4%
Good  572 81 14.16% 20.89% 44.11%
Good to Soft 329 38 11.55% -33.25% -23.08%
Good to Firm 701 82 11.7% -31.85% -24.29%

From the punter’s POV, Dalgleish’s record on Good ground is nothing short of sensational. Even at SP, you would have earned an almost 21% ROI if you blindly backed all of his horses when the going is Good since 2013. This rises to a staggering 44% when you use Betfair. What’s even better is the fact that the worst Betfair ROI was in 2013 when it was ‘only’ 26.61%!

In 2017 so far, Dalgleish’s mounts on Good ground would net you an ROI of 61% on Betfair. As the strike rate is low at just over 14%, it’s clear that he has a fair few high priced winners. You can completely forget about this trainer over other types of going as you will lose money in the long run.

Final Words

If for some reason you didn’t realise the importance of ground condition in horse racing, the statistics above should change your mind. I encourage you to dig even deeper to see if there are any other trainers with preferred going. To sum up, look at the horses of the following trainers and ground conditions to make a steady profit:

  • Richard Fahey & Soft
  • Aidan O’Brien & Good to Firm
  • JHM Gosden & Good + Good to Firm
  • Keith Dalgleish & Good

Patrick Lynch

Patrick graduated from the National University of Ireland, Galway with an MA in Literature and Publishing but decided he would rather have the freedom of a freelance writer than be stuck in a publishing house all day. He has enjoyed this freedom since 2009 and has written thousands of articles on a variety of topics but sports betting is his passion. While his specialty is finding mismatches in obscure football leagues, he also likes to use his research skills to provide punters with detailed winning strategies in horse racing. You can check out his personal blog on or Twitter @pl1982 where he writes content to help small businesses achieve success.


  1. Over the years I have found that tipster information can be refined and improved by back up with a “trainers for courses angle ” and there are several..including ground conditions of course! Not just the big trainers, more importantly 2nd or 3rd ranking trainers who have to specialise in certain courses, trips & and numbers i.e.distance and size of field ..use certain jockeys, travel certain distance to race etc etc to even keep their heads above water. Young up and coming trainers also can add surprise value ;also their use of apprentices. Start by looking at trainers’ profit records and you will soon see where their expertise lies..or not. What sort of races and where they rely for their bread and butter. Works well at smaller courses too – look up the last 5 years’ results at courses such as Fakenham, Hexham, Sedgefield, the Celtic courses (not Ireland though!)….Some surprising & regular good priced winners keep cropping up and lady trainers seem particularly adept in placing their animals in suitable races at prices worth backing e.w. My advice: use in combination with the best tipster you can find (at Race Advisor of course) but to be honest betting on football once you trial it for a bit, go world wide and adopt a disciplined approach, can be very rewarding.

  2. Great article. If I wanted to research other trainers’ records where would you recommend I search? Thanks

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