There is nothing that is more important in our entire form analysis process for each race than compiling and assessing the speed map.

That is because it’s nigh on impossible to be confident of knowing how a race will finish without having a good understanding of how it will be run right from the start. Where a horse is likely to settle and also the race pace have a huge impact on the result and that is why speed maps are used by serious punters, jockeys, trainers and owners.

So what is the best way to compile and assess your own speed maps?

Well 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 including:

(1) 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 in that if they have led last start they will 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.

(2) Field size – leading a 16 horse field is different to a 5 horse one, the same as racing 8th in an 8 horse field is quite different to 8th in a capacity field.

(3) Barrier – a horse that went back from a wide barrier last start may well settle more prominently from a better barrier today.

(4) Form – how well has it performed from those settling positions and therefore how likely is it to repeat that tactic? If a horse was successful last start by sitting midfield and finishing hard, the jockey is more likely to try that again.

(5) Jockey – some have a natural preference to go forward (eg Nash Rawiller) while others prefer to get their horses to relax (eg Nick Hall) so not only consider today’s jockey but also who rode the horse in recent runs. Another thing to consider is apprentices versus seniors. Inexperienced jockeys can struggle on leaders as their judgement of pace can be off, whereas a strong hoop like Rawiller can rate them perfectly in front and at times intimidate other hoops.

(6) 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.

(7) Distance changes – there is a big difference between a horse that can go forward over a staying trip compared to when it races over a sprinting distance. And vice versa. Another scenario is that a horse that settled say 5th over 1600 may well sit 2nd or 3rd over 2000.

(8) Stage of preparation – horses are more likely to race in a prominent position early in their campaign rather than later.

(9) Class – 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.

(10) Distance to the first turn – a short run to the first turn is an important factor to consider especially for horses drawn wide as it can mean they can ‘cut the corner’ or it could result in the horse having to race wide. In many circumstances it’s OK for leaders to be drawn wide as they can often dictate the tempo from that position.

(11) Metres per second – another data point we use (although it isn’t widely available) is Metres Per Second information from Daily Sectionals. That is because the MPS information can give more insight than merely previous positions in running. A horse that has been settling midfield in recent starts may have actually been running at a faster pace than other horses in today’s race that have been racing up on the speed. MPS figures provide clarity on that.

(12) Trainers – speed maps don’t tell you what the trainer has told the jockey to do. Some trainers are predictable, for example Gai Waterhouse wants hers to leaders or at least be right up on the speed, whereas Bart Cummings teaches his horses to relax midfield or worse so they can finish off. But for other trainers there are no hard and fast rules so it’s important to get an idea of what the trainers’ preferences are.

(13) 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

(14) 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.

(15) Leaders going slowly – It was once thought that the jockey on a leader should try and ‘stack them up’ and the slower he went the better his horses chances. But this can have at least two negative consequences. Firstly it can allow (or force) other jockeys to come up and put more pressure on. Secondly it can detract from the horse’s strength which is going along at a high cruising speed. Instead it sets up the race for the horse with the biggest final kick and that is not normally the leader

A recent example of a horse that mapped perfectly was Tuscan Fire at Flemington on January 1st. He was the only horse likely to go forward and last time out had gone at a very fast pace and still fought on well. In this race he could find the front without working hard and thus conserve a lot of energy in the run.

We advised members that ‘Boss should be able to rate him well in front in a race without much pace. We know he can stay so he should be able to just keep grinding away’. He went on to score one of the easiest wins you will ever see.

Maps can also be used to find false favourites such as those likely to be taken on in front, or forced to race wide, or getting back in a race with a slow tempo.

Race pace and a horse’s in running position have a huge influence on the result. It’s estimated that in half of all races the winner settled in the first four. I am sure that once you get serious about speed maps you will wonder how you ever tried to do the form without them.

Good punting
David Duffield