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What does SP mean in Horse Racing?

Horse racing terminology can be confusing for those not ingrained in the sport and here we are taking a look at SP, or Starting Price, and what it means in the sport.

The Starting Price (SP) reflects the odds of a given runner in a horse race when the race starts. Odds on horses can change, sometimes dramatically, from when the market opens until the race starts. 

The SP is the final price that each runner was available at and, as such, the price used to settle bets that were struck on SP terms.

What Does Starting Price or SP Mean?

SP stands for Starting Price and in terms of betting it refers to the odds that a horse goes off at when a race starts.

When placing a bet on a horse race, odds on each runner are offered after a market has been formed. Routinely, this happens less than 24 hours before a race, though in the case of bigger races, it can happen days/weeks before the race. 

In the instances of elite races, such as those at the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot and the Classics, longer term odds are offered. These are known as ante-post markets.

Typically on the day of a race, punters can choose either the odds quoted or SP when placing a bet. If you choose the latter, the bet is settled on SP.

If you take set odds, these are used - though in some cases concessions are offered whereby bets struck at lower odds are paid on the bigger price if the SP ends up being higher. Note: this doesn't apply to ante-post bets or, in most cases, any bet struck before the day of a race. 

Odds on any horse can change before the off, owing to a wide range of factors, but the SP is the final price offered on a horse before the race starts and cannot change subsequently.

How is the SP worked out?

Traditionally, determining the Starting Price (SP) for horse races has involved a group of officials on the course, basing their calculations on the offers available with fixed-odds bookmakers that are physically present at the event and using a formula to calculate the Starting Prices.

Failing that – if for some reason there are no bookmakers physically present at the racecourse - the Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC) turns to a selected list of online bookmakers to compute the SP using similar methods. 

The SP was formulated using exclusively off-course prices, for example, when racing went behind closed doors during the 2020 pandemic.

In the United Kingdom, SPs offered by on-course bookmakers are arranged in ascending order and divided into two equal parts, where the official SP is the shortest price from the half that provides the lengthiest odds.

Why is the SP important?

Having an official way of calculating the SP for every runner in every race keeps order in the betting market for the thousands of races across the UK and Ireland each year.

Different bookmakers can offer different odds on each horse in a race before the off but, once the race starts, any bet that was not struck 'at a price' is settled on the industry-agreed SP. 

However, Best Odds Guaranteed with bet365 ensures that customers can get the best price providing terms and conditions have been met.

The industry SP is also important when it comes to settling other horse racing type bets such as Forecasts and Tricasts.

Forecasts and Tricasts

Forecast and Tricast bets are where a punter tries to predict the first and second (Forecast) finishers in a race or the first, second and third (Tricast).

These bets can be placed straight where the horses must finish in a specified order or reverse/multi – where they can finish in any order (stake increased accordingly).

Generally, Forecast and Tricast bets are settled using the SPs of the runners concerned.

Tote Betting 

In Tote betting, you are betting into a pool where all the money staked on each horse in the race is pooled together. After the race, everyone who has backed the winner will receive a share of that pool money, depending on the size of their original stake.

In instances of multi-leg Tote bets, such as the Placepot, if a non-runner is declared after you pick your horse then your selection will be defaulted to the SP favourite to ensure your bet still get a run.

Again, in this instance, it is important that a clear and established way of identifying the SP for every runner in every race is present. 

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