Racing Track Surfaces

Horse Racing Track Surfaces

What are the different types of Horse Racing Track Surfaces?

There are 3 different types Thoroughbred Horse Racing Track surfaces used today.

Dirt Track is usually the outer track and most common racing track surfaces in the US.

Turf Track is typically on the inside of the race track and most common racing track surfaces in Europe.  

Synthetic (Polytrack)  is a man-made surface that is only available at a certain of locations.


Dirt Track

Are the most common racing track surface in North America. Dirt Track surfaces are highly influenced by changes in weather.


fst = Fast Track  – Footing at best, dry, fast and even.Horse Racing Track Surfaces - Dirt

gd = Good Track – Condition between fast and muddy.

wf  = Wet Fast – Track that is wet on the surface but firm underneath.

my = Muddy Track –  Deep condition of racetrack after being soaked with water.

sly = Sloppy – Condition of footing.  Wet on the surface with a firm bottom. Usually, this indicates there is visible water on the surface.

sl = Slow – Footing that is not fast, between sloppy and heavy.

hy = Heavy – Condition of track similar, too, but even slower than muddy.

fr = FROZEN – Something that doesn’t happen often because if it’s dangerous for the horse’s and jockey races will be canceled.

Turf Course

For grass racing.  Race Tracks in North America feature both a Dirt and Turf course, one outside of the other.


fm = Firm – A dry turf course with a slight give to it (corresponds with fast on a dirt surface).Horse Racing Track Surfaces - Turf

gd = Good – A relatively firm turn course containing some moisture and slightly more give.

yl = Yielding – A very wet turf course that is deep and produces slower times.

sf = Soft – A turf course that contains a good amount of moisture and substantial give.

hy = Heavy – A deep, heavy and often waterlogged turf course that produces very slow times.


Synthetic Surface (Polytrack) 

A man-made racing surface believed to reduce injuries to the horse and withstand weather changes.  Used only at select tracks in California, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Canada.



What is poly track-synthetic surface made of


How long is a Furlong in Horse Racing? 

According to Wikipedia: The word “furlong” comes from Old English words furh (“furrow”) and lang (“long”). Originally it was the length of the furrow in one acre of a ploughed field. An acre is an area that is one furlong long and one chain wide. For this reason, the furlong was once also called an acre’s length. Around the year 1300, England standardized the furlong as 40 rods or 660 feet.

Thoroughbred Racetracks are measured in Furlongs, which 1 furlong equals to 1/8 of a mile or 220 yds. or 660 ft.  Most tracks are 8 furlongs which equal to 1 mile which equals to 1,760 yds. and 5,280 ft. 

Furlongs are marked on the track with poles.


Here are the furlong mile markers

1 furlong = 1/8 mile

2 furlongs = 1/4 mile

3 furlongs = 3/8 mile

4 furlongs = 1/2 mileHow long are horse racing furlongs

5 furlongs = 5/8 mile

5.5 furlongs = 11/16 mile

6 furlongs = 3/4 mile

6.5 furlongs = 13/16 mile

7 furlongs = 7/8 mile

7.5 furlongs = 15/16 mile

8 furlongs = 1 mile

8.5 furlongs = 1 1/16 miles

9 furlongs = 1 1/8 miles

9.5 furlongs = 1 3/16 miles

10 furlongs = 1 1/4 miles

10.5 furlongs = 1 5/16 miles

11 furlongs = 1 3/8 miles

11.5 furlongs = 1 7/6 miles

12 furlongs = 1 1/2 miles


If you are new to the Sport of Horse Racing Check out our Beginner’s Guide for Horse Racing!


CONTINUE READING: Horse Racing Running Styles