The style of racing differs between surfaces, with dirt races tending to have the fastest pace, while turf racing often comes down to a sprint in the stretch. Races on artificial surfaces tend to play out somewhere in between. Anecdotally, American bettors consider dirt racing to be more predictable, which makes it a more popular medium for betting purposes. Weather conditions affect the speed of the different surfaces too, and grading systems have been developed to indicate the track condition (known as the "going" in the UK and Ireland). Turf surfaces are the most affected by changes in the weather, and many turf horses will have a strong preference for a specific type of going.
Synthetic surfaces allow racing to take place in bad weather conditions, when it may otherwise be cancelled, and for this reason are sometimes referred to as All Weather surfaces. Manufacturers of synthetic racetrack surface materials promote the fact that synthetic tracks have drainage attributes that are better than natural surfaces.
There is also evidence that synthetic surfaces are significantly safer than dirt in terms of equine breakdowns, though there are many variables that come into play. The statistics for North America in 2015 showed 1.18 fatalities per 1,000 starts on synthetic surfaces, 1.22 on grass courses, and 1.78 on dirt tracks. The breakdown rates were down for each of the surfaces compared to 2014.
The first synthetic surface to replace dirt in the United States was installed at The Meadows Racetrack and Casino in Washington, Pennsylvania in 1963. This surface, called Tartan, was found to be unsatisfactory and removed and replaced with a traditional limestone surface in 1975.
|Cushion Track||Equestrian Surfaces||Sand, synthetic fibers, elastic fiber coated with wax. The footing is approximately seven inches deep, followed by a geotextile membrane/tarmac.
||Santa Anita Park (replaced)|
Hollywood Park (closed down)
Courbold Park, Sunshine Coast
Taby Galopp, Sweden
Al Khor Horse Breeders Park, Qatar
|Fibresand||Mansfield Sand Company||Sand particles and polypropylene fibres.||Southwell|
|Polytrack||Martin Collins Enterprises||A mixture of silica sand, recycled synthetic fibers (carpet & spandex) and recycled rubber/pvc. In cold climates, the mixture may also include jelly cable (plastic insulation from copper phone wire). The entire mixture is coated with wax.||Lingfield Park|
Del Mar Racetrack (replaced)
Keeneland Race Course (replaced)
Pakenham Racecourse, VIC
Cagnes Sur Mer Racecourse
Deauville-La Touques Racecourse
Gokdere & Bedew Racecourses in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Greyville, Durban South Africa
|Pro-Ride||Pro-Ride Racing Australia Pty Ltd||6 inches of footing (sand, nylon fibres, Spandex fibres coated in a polymeric binder) on top of a 4-inch IMC layer (sand & nylon fibres) on top of a drainage system.||Flemington|
Santa Anita (removed)
Rosehill Racecourse, NSW
Warwick Farm Racecourse, NSW
|Tapeta||Michael Dickinson, Inc.||Sand, fibre, rubber and wax makes up the top 4-7 inches of the racing surface, installed on top of either porous asphalt or a geotextile membrane.||Spreyton|
Golden Gate Fields
Presque Isle Downs
|Visco-Ride||Sand and fibre coated in wax||Flemington, Victoria (removed)|
Cranbourne Racecourse, Victoria (removed)
Warwick Farm Racecourse, New South Wales (removed)
|RashitTrack||CJSC HC Visteks||A mixture of silica sand, recycled synthetic fibers (carpet & spandex) and chopped geotextile. The surface keeps the exploitation characteristics in a wide temperature range (from -40 up to +65 ). The entire mixture is coated with wax.||Akbuzat Hippodrome, Ufa|
international sport-horses hippodrome, Kazan