Turf skills

I know some horses are turf horses and some trainers are best with turf horses but are there turf jockeys? How are turf races ridden differently? Are the horses shod differently?

I’ll take punt as no one else has responded.

Some horses are considered turf horses because of their pedigree, conformation and their movement. That doesn’t mean one can’t be good on the other surface: horses for courses and all that. Some swap surfaces quite happily.

Good jockeys are good jockeys and some will have multinational success across many styles of racing under different jurisdictions. Good jockeys can both ‘make’ horses run well for them, and this is an intrinsic skill, one that makes them good jockeys, and also have an ability to read and judge a race so the horse has the best chance of winning. It would appear, however, that it is often exceptional jockeys who travel widely because there are loads of riders available locally and it is a very competitive job. Some jockeys will spend the summer in one country and the winter riding in another. As they are paid per ride, this makes huge sense.

The trainer’s choice of dirt or turf is, I suspect, partly due to location. It is hard to prioritize turf if only dirt racing is available. I also think it has something to do with the personal preference of the trainer. And what horses are sent to them by owners. Wesley Ward, for example, seems to have built up his reputation by getting winners at Royal Ascot. Dirt as a surface is unknown in Europe. If not turf, the race surface will be a synthetic as this is considered far safer than dirt. As the European Classics are all run on turf, artificial surfaces tend to be perceived as lower quality races.

Horses aren’t shod differently, they have light racing plates whether grass or synthetic surface. At least, this is so in the UK.

Racing style… That is definitely a cultural thing. American dirt is speed from the gate and fractions of time are included in the commentary. British and Irish races range from very short sprints to extremely long ones across a day’s programme and running tends to start slowish from the gate and builds up to maximum speed at the finish. French starts very slow and then sprint home. Turf is far more variable than dirt as a surface as it depends on soil type, weather, season, ground care and how much racing has already happened on that ground. That means that fractions are largely irrelevant as the same horses over the same course on a different day will put in a different performance because of the difference in the going. However, horses evolved to run on grass. A feature of all European racecourses is diversity: none is the same. Some are right or left handed, some straight, some have ups and downs according to terrain. There are even race meets held on beaches. This means that human race-goers have their favourite courses and race horses have their favourite courses too. Racing in Australia is particularly innovative, being the home of the crouched jockey style of riding and also where the starting gate was invented. Other racing jurisdictions tend to pick and choose what they want from major racing nations and plan their industry according to local needs.

There we go, lots of room for other opinions.