Soft, firm and heavy – horse racing ground explained ahead of the Cheltenham Festival

The most eagerly anticipated week in the racing calendar returns once more on Tuesday, with all eyes within the sport firmly fixed on the Cheltenham Festival.

2022 is set to be a special one for racing fans, as the event sees the return of spectators for the first time in two years after the 2021 festival went on behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

With restrictions now (hopefully) a thing of the past thousands of punters will descend on the sleepy Gloucestershire town this week, all hoping to land a winning bet on one of the world’s best race horses.

One aspect of punting that could well be key to a successful bet is the course ground at Cheltenham.

Ground often plays a big factor in horse racing.

It is no secret in the betting business that the going can often play a big role in the market, so here is everything you need to know about horse racing ground ahead of the festival.


first up is firm † This type of ground is more commonly seen in the summer months during the flat season when the ground is extremely dry.

This dryness tends to result in horses running faster, and often leads to much quicker track times.

Good to firm

Just below this comes good to firm † This going sees the ground run a little slower, but still offers a quick surface.

If the ground is too firm due to a lack of rainfall, racecourse officials will often add water to the track to soften it up.

Who are you most looking forward to watch at this week’s festival? Let us know in the comments section below.

Plenty of punters will take the running into consideration at this week's festival.
Plenty of punters will take the running into consideration at this week’s festival.


The ground that tends to suit the majority of horses, and is often the most common going is labeled good

This ground is usually preferred by most racecourse officials, as it appeals to a wide range of horses and therefore attracts larger fields to their races.

Good to soft

Heading towards the softer side of ground now, we have good to soft

This going arises when the racetrack still offers good ground for the most part, but is still holding some water in places.

These conditions tend to arise in the winter months, but is expected at this week’s festival.

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Below good to soft then of course comes soft ground, which tends to be common throughout the jumps season, which runs through the wetter and colder months.

This can often prove a tough test for horses and usually results in slower times, however some runners are often targeted for softer ground as it is where they perform best against other struggling competitors.


The wettest and most traitorous of grounds is labelled heavy † This ground usually provides the toughest test for race horses with the wet and boggy ground making it difficult to run.

This ground usually provides the slowest of race times.

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