Tempo and position-in-run have a huge influence on the result of each race, so compiling and assessing speed maps is a crucial part of the form analysis process.
To be confident of knowing how a race will finish, it’s essential to have a good understanding of how it will be run right from the start. That’s why speed maps are used by all serious punters, jockeys, trainers and owners.
Horses that settle in the first four win more than half of all races. Speed maps can be used to try and identify those horses, as well as false favourites such as those likely to be taken on in front, or forced to race wide, or get back in a race with a slow tempo.
So what’s the best way to compile and assess your own speed maps?
It’s actually a pretty big project that is part art and part science. It requires gathering all the relevant data, putting it into a visual form and then having the ability to make adjustments according to individual race scenarios.
There are many things to consider when compiling speed maps…
Speed maps: Recent positions in running
This is the number one factor most assessors use as a starting point. When racing within their preferred distance range, most horses can be grouped into one of four categories – leader, on-pace, midfield or backmarker. Horses tend to be fairly habitual. If they led last start, they’ll generally try to lead again. The same tends to apply for other racing profiles. But of course there are many different factors that can affect this.
— SKY Racing (@SkyRacingAU) April 16, 2022
Leading a 16-horse field is different to leading a 5-horse field. And racing eighth in an eight-horse field is quite different to eighth in a twenty-horse field.
Barriers can force the hand of a jockey or trainer. A horse that went back from a wide barrier last start may well settle more prominently from a better barrier today. Or a horse that was prominent last start from an inside draw may have to go back from a wide gate today.
How well has the horse performed recently from those settling positions? If a horse was successful last start by sitting midfield and finishing hard, the jockey is more likely to try that again.
Some riders simply have a natural preference to go forward, while others prefer to get their horses to relax. So it’s important not only to consider today’s jockey, but also who rode the horse in recent runs. Especially if there’s been a change to or from an apprentice rider. Inexperienced jockeys can struggle on leaders as their judgement of pace can be off. Whereas a strong hoop can rate them perfectly in front and at times intimidate other hoops.
Track bias on the day
Horses may have been forced to race ‘upside down’ on a day where there was a strong perceived track bias. For example if all the leaders were winning, a natural backmarker may have been pushed early to take up a more prominent position.
Stage of preparation
As a general rule, horses are more likely to race in a prominent position early in their campaign, rather than later.
The ability to race on the pace at a lower class won’t necessarily transfer for horses going up in class. Just because it led a Murtoa maiden last start, doesn’t mean it can lead them up at Flemington.
Distance to the first turn
A short run to the first turn is an important factor to consider. Horses drawn wide may need to try to ‘cut the corner’. Otherwise, it could result in the horse having to race wide. In many circumstances it’s okay for leaders to be drawn wide, as they can often dictate the tempo from that position.
Speed maps don’t tell you what the trainer has told the jockey to do. Some trainers are predictable – for example, Gai Waterhouse wants her runners to be right up on the speed. But for other trainers there are no hard and fast rules. So it’s important to assess each horse and race on its merits.
Backmarkers are normally disadvantaged by a slow pace, while a hot tempo can be the undoing of many leaders. Moonee Valley and Canterbury are a couple of tracks where the on-pacers tend to have a clear advantage.
Horses racing wide
Three-wide no cover is an exceptionally tough spot to win from, especially if the tempo is solid. Three-wide with cover is not nearly as bad, particularly if the tempo is only moderate.
Leaders going slowly
It was once thought that the jockey on a leader should try to go as slow as possible up front. But this ‘stack them up’ tactic can have at least two negative consequences. Firstly, it can allow (or force) other jockeys to push forward and put more pressure on. Secondly, it can detract from the horse’s strength, which is going along at a high cruising speed and pushing the others out of the comfort zone. Instead it sets up the race for the horse with the biggest final kick. And typically, that’s not the leader.
Punt like a pro with Trevor Lawson’s Melbourne Ratings. As well as a full set of rated prices, speed maps and suggested bets, you can spend each and every raceday with a pro punter: the Melbourne Ratings Live Page gives you direct access to Trev himself to ask whatever you like. If you're keen to win, it’s the only way to punt.
Punt like a pro with Trevor Lawson’s Melbourne Ratings.
As well as a full set of rated prices, speed maps and suggested bets, you can spend each and every raceday with a pro punter: the Melbourne Ratings Live Page gives you direct access to Trev himself to ask whatever you like.
If you're keen to win, it’s the only way to punt.