Right, let’s get into the basics of speed maps! This is part 2 in a series on speed maps and their importance to form analysis.
Some people may be tempted to call this “Speed Maps for Dummies” – but if you’re smart enough to use a speed map, then you can’t be a dummy!
What is a speed map?
Good question, thought you’d never ask!
In simple terms, a speed map is a graphical representation of where runners are likely to be once the field settles after the early rush.
Or to quote Punters.com.au:
Speed maps are used to predict the running position of each horse in the field. They are also used to determine the likely pace of the race. When it comes to finding the winner of a race, both of these factors are deemed critical by expert form analysts.
So all a speed map is trying to do is to assess where a runner is likely to be positioned in a race. We’ll look at what the common labels are and then why this is important in the next two sections of this post.
Speed Map Position Labels
Using a common language is standard to a whole raft of industries where specialist language is used.
In the case of speed maps, there are a number of different positions or roles a runner can play. To make sure we all agree, it makes sense to give these labels that make sense to everyone.
It’s also worth noting that the Australian link above uses different labels but exactly the same positions or roles. However, it makes sense to align our labels to the language used in New Zealand and particularly in the race review comments on the TAB and form guides.
There’s six standard roles or positions in a racing speed map:
- Leader – the runner (or runners) predicted to set the pace
- Trail – the runner/s predicted to settle in behind the leaders and play follow the leader
- Handy runners who are forward of midfield but not in a leading role
- Midfield – self explanatory
- Back – worse than midfield ie behind the midfield runner
- Well back – runners at the back of the field – think Kiwi in THAT Melbourne Cup
Another way of looking at the positions is to simplify things even further:
- “forward” runners – runners who will look to go forward from the start – this covers around 30-40% of runners
- midfield – about 30% of runners will settle in the middle of the field
- back markers – runners that will take a position at the back of the field (around 30-40%)
We’ll explore these figures in more detail in later posts.
Why does speed map position matter?
Another great question! There’s many scenarios where assessing where a runner is likely to be can be critical to finding the winner.
Some tracks can have a front runner bias which makes it more likely a horse in a leading position will win.
Some races will have lots of runners competing for the lead setting it up nicely for the back markers (see how a common language helps?)
Conversely some races may lack runners on pace meaning the race is a slow dawdle with a sprint at the end – this sets up the race nicely for horses on the pace.
Some times the track conditions can be significantly different – the inside might be the place to be or the on the other hand the inside may be “off”. In these cases, assessing where runners are likely to land could be a significant tool in finding the winner. This demonstrates the relationship between barrier and speed map position.
Clearly each race is different so a runner that is has a bad outlook in one race could be much better positioned in another race without taking into account the calibre of the field.
In the next post, we’ll start looking at the data that underlies the general discussion above.
For those who are wondering, the speed map image is from the 2017 Captain Cook Stakes at Trentham.