The modern punter is equipped with more information and tools today than ever
before. In addition to more detailed form and critique on every runner in a
race, the punter has easy access to speed maps. The speed map has quickly become
an essential part of the modern punter's betting tool kit, and there is no shortage
of racing websites and media outfits offering them up. With so much information
available to the punter about speed and positioning in a race, are they really
that much better off? The answer to that question hinges on the quality, completeness
and relevance of the knowledge and information that goes into creating the map.
Punters may not even be aware if the speed maps that they use are simply an
automated speed rating comparison, or a combination of this and other factors
that provide a realistic picture of where the field is likely to settle in a
race. Deane Lester, arguably Australia's most respected and accurate racing
form analyst, reveals the ingredients that go into creating an effective speed
map and discusses how punters can use it to their advantage.
Speed Map advantage
Before starting to understand what goes into an effective speed map and how
to apply it when doing the form, we asked Deane about its purpose. What do punters
have to gain from using them?
There is a risk when betting on the best horse in a race if it's not going
to enjoy a reasonable run, says Deane. He points out that most horses enjoy
a particular pattern of racing, and so speed maps give the punter an insight
into whether the race is likely to suit that pattern or not encumber the horse
at least, in its running.
If you consider betting on a leader, you want to be aware of whether there
are other horses that may interrupt the rhythm of your runner. Conversely, if
you like a back marker, you want to know that there is enough speed for your
horse to finish strongly and understand the chances of him getting a cart into
the race without spending too much energy.
Deane also points out that placing too much emphasis on speed maps alone can
also be counter productive, as a good position in the running is little help
if the horse lacks the ability to capitalise on it.
Track knowledge, an essential ingredient
The truth about speed maps is that they are lot more complex than just comparing
speed ratings and lining them up against the barrier draw. That's an easy job
for automated systems to produce on colourful graphics that animate the horses
coming out of the barriers. But it's not that simple, and based on that information
alone, the value to the punter is significantly limited. One of the essential
ingredients for speed maps is knowledge about a track's geography and the pressure
points imposed on runners over various distances on the course. Deane sites
the distance to the first turn, in particular, as an important factor when mapping
the speed in a race.
A 1200 metre race at Flemington will predominantly be run at a building
tempo, whereas a 1200 metre race at Moonee Valley has a 300 metre run to the
first turn, so there will be greater pressure early as riders jostle for a position.
The Speed Map recipe
Deane outlined the complete list of ingredients that he uses to build an effective
speed map. He sees speed mapping as a very subjective exercise however the ingredients
necessary to provide a useful view of speed and positioning, less so. His ingredients
- Speed ratings,
- Barrier draws;
- Track geography including pressure points over various track distances;
- Horse fitness levels;
- Trainer tactics and
- Riders style of positioning in the race.
With that many variables to consider, he says, you will get different
results from different speed map providers every time.
Form analysis plays its role
So where does good old form analysis come into all this? How do you use a horse's
ability to form a view on speed and positioning in a race?
Deane draws on form analysis to form his view on a horse's strengths and weaknesses
and its fitness level. From there he can develop a better picture on how each
horse will handle the pressure points in the race and how its fitness level
will impact its positioning at various stages of the race.
Trying to understand where a trainer is with a horse's preparation can
be crucial to understanding a horse's fitness level. Is this the horse's peak
run? Can the horse cope with being ridden closer in a race? Deane says.
Jockeys count too
Considering riders is one of the most undersold elements of speed mapping,
says Deane. The speed map picture isn't complete without considering different
characteristics of a jockey's riding style. There are several riders I place
1-2 lengths closer in a speed map because that's the way they like to ride,
says Deane. He also sited other jockeys that have a more relaxed riding
style and then there's the quality hoops who have the complete skill set, capable
of riding from the front or the back as required. Deane points to the fact that
jockeys are mapping the race too and the good ones are using them to effect
themselves - often you can see a map where a quality rider is aware of an
advantage and rides accordingly.
Track patterns on race day
The final factor which punters need to keep an eye on when using speed maps
emerges during race day itself. Track patterns can differ from one race day
to the next depending on various factors like track condition, rail position
and recent traffic on the track. Deane points out in relation to observing the
racing pattern, with this knowledge, the speed map can assist punters to
determine which horses are likely to get the better ground in the running of
The last word
When asked for some key points for punters to keep in mind when sourcing and
reviewing speed maps, Deane offered these nuggets of wisdom:
- Don't assume barrier 1 is always the best barrier and, don't condemn a horse
from a wide draw without further investigation.
- Don't underestimate top riders. Jockeys are pro-active and can change an
awkward situation very quickly, so don't be afraid to back top jockeys from
awkward draws if you think they are on the best horse.
- Don't assume that a certain horse will race in a certain position at every
start. Barrier position, changes in distances and pressure from other runners
in a race all contribute towards determining a horse's position in the running.
Deane Lester produces speed maps for Saturday Melbourne metropolitan race meetings
and also for major midweek Victorian race meetings. Click
here to view an example of his speed maps in more detail.