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Benefits and Drawbacks to Entering “Main Track Only” for Racehorse Owners

Chestertown winning on a sloppy track at Aqueduct.

Why in the world would you enter a turf race if you want to run a racehorse on dirt?

Where there is turf and at least a fair chance rain, you’ll see a good number of horses entered in races for “main track only” (or “MTO.”

You guessed it. These horses are entered, but the connections only wish to run if the race is rained off the turf and moved to the dirt or synthetic and there are enough scratches (usually there are at least a few) to accommodate them.

The main benefit of entering a race “main track only” is catching a shorter field than you would if you entered the same condition originally carded for the dirt. Some horses are purely turf competitors, and often times you’ll see them scratched out of races when the track declares grass racing is abandoned on a particular day. Those horses who remain in the race probably don’t do their best running on dirt if their connections originally entered a turf race. With a little luck, you can catch a short, soft field for the level.

For the gamblers out there, you can often get good value on main track only runners who draw into the body of a race. Why? Well, sometimes they are the number 14 or 15, and can be overlooked if there are several scratches to weed through when handicapping.

The main disadvantage with this racing management strategy for Thoroughbred racehorse partnership owners is difficulty in planning. Grass racing typically isn’t called off until the morning of, so in the days before a race owners scour the weather reports and speculate whether or not their horse will compete come raceday. Sometimes you find out at 7am if races are off the turf, other times you find out at noon. If the race stays on the grass, it’s on to “plan b”.

At West Point we jump into action to notify our Partners when the decision is made by the tracks. We communicate to our clients with text messaging, email, or phone calls depending on the timing. It makes planning a fun day at the track more difficult, but entering main track only can provide a competitive advantage for horses if you have just a little bit of luck. 🙂

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