Speed maps arent speed maps

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.

horse racing speed mapsThe 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 include:

  • 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 race.

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.

Mike Steward