Horse Racing SP: How to Take it and Win

While betting on a horse race, you've probably come across the term starting price (SP). If you're a novice in horse betting, then you were probably wondering what it means. We’ve got the lowdown on this betting term. If you want to know what it is, how it’s calculated, and when to take it or not, we can help. You’ll find advice on ways for you to beat the betting SP, and where you can get the best odds guaranteed for horse racing. There’s even an explanation of why prices change and how historical data can help you to beat the bookies. 

What does SP mean in horse racing betting

The SP is an abbreviation of the starting price. These are the odds that a horse returns to after running in a race. You can also think of it as the prices on the horses when the races begin. As horse racing is a sport so intimately connected with gambling, it is a crucial statistic gathered in events all over the world. The starting price for a horse tells you quite a lot. It indicates how fancied (or not) horses were to win the race, as the betting odds are an implied probability of their chances.

Best bookmakers to bet the starting price

Below there is a shortlist with the best betting sites in your country that offer horses races with SP. We chose them by comparing the starting price with the current price, until what time you can bet the SP and if they offer best odds guaranteed as a cover. 

How is the SP in horse racing calculated

There is a traditional method used by the betting industry to work out a horse racing starting price. A sample, of at least half of all on-course bookmakers at the track, is taken of the odds for each horse at the off. These are individually ordered into a list from the longest to the shortest. The list is then divided into two halves. The SP is the shortest odds available in half containing the longest odds.

In the absence of on-course bookies, the sample is collected from off-course retail betting shops and online sportsbooks. When an on-course sample is collected, the bookmakers selected are those which most closely reflect the each-way terms available off-course. The each-way terms on offer depend on the size of the field and nature of the horse race.

Difference between early prices and SP

The difference here is when the betting SP is available. You should be able to find an early price anywhere between 9 am, and 10 am on the morning of the horse race in question. These are available in retail betting shops, but also online sportsbooks and horse racing betting websites. Such odds are highly likely to change throughout the day, though, due to increased market fluctuation as the race draws closer.

Early prices are considered to be the phase before board prices. When there are on-course betting odds available on a bookmaker’s board at the track, early rates are replaced by the first show of board prices. With all horse races declared about 24 hours beforehand at worst, any prices offered by bookies the night before can also be considered early. The starting price, meanwhile, is only revealed after the event is over.

Why do prices on horses change

The odds for a racehorse to win change for many reasons. Many bettors may be gambling on it, forcing bookmakers to shorten the price to protect their liabilities. These are referred to as 'market movers.' Professional tipsters working for the national press or a horse racing publication may have picked out a horse they fancy to win, and punters are following that advice. It’s important to remember, however, that it is not all one-way traffic, and odds can also go the other way.

Prices not only shorten but lengthen too. Horses are said to be on the drift if their odds get bigger. There are other external factors which explain why prices change. If there is a non-runner, then bookies will have to reform the market by taking the horse's absence into account. A jockey change, and what has happened at the race meeting earlier in the day, can also influence prices if a rider or trainer has had other winners. Price changes can be to your advantage, especially if a horse you fancy to win drifts.

When should I take the SP over the current price

It would help if you took the SP in horse racing betting over the current odds on offer when your fancy drifts before the off. This is a subtle judgment to make and may not always go in your favour, though. This is why it can work out for you. If you take SP and the horse is returned at bigger odds, then you receive a payout from the bookies at that final starting price. That means more profit. 

Most of the time, the betting SP odds are shorter than an early or ante post price. That means if you take it, then you will make less money off a win. Thanks to the introduction of best odds guaranteed promotions, there is now little value in the SP. If, through such offers, you are assured of getting the price a horse is returned at, then betting earlier in the day makes more sense.

What are the best odds guaranteed

Best odds guaranteed (BOG), sometimes called best price guaranteed, is where you place a bet on a horse. If the SP is more significant than the odds you took, bookmakers payout to you at the top price. If, for example, you back a horse staking €5 at 5/1 (6.00), but it is returned at 6/1 (7.00), you receive €35 back on your wager instead of €30. The leading bookies in the UK and Ireland usually offer BOG.

Bookies that offer BOG

How can I use historical data to beat the SP in horse racing betting

There are plenty of horse racing starting price statistics out there. A key example of such data is that two-thirds of SP favourites lose the race. As starting prices are always collected for races, you can see where and when a horse was fancied. Some sites even list what price the horse opened at trackside. They also include the biggest odds it touched with on-course bookies during the build-up to the race too. This allows you to plot how prices change as races draw closer.

You can also use historical data to find out if a horse wins when it is a favourite, or whether it falls into the category of a beaten favourite. If a racehorse looks overpriced compared to its best form, you may be able to beat SP by placing a bet on it earlier. However, past performances, and whether a horse ran up to market expectations, can only tell you so much. As with any gambling research, the data does allow you to make better-informed decisions and reach conclusions.

Can I make consistent profit by backing steamers at SP

Unfortunately, not. Even though a steamer is a major market mover and the best-backed horse in a race, this is the one that has attracted most support, and its odds have shortened the most. Market confidence alone cannot make horses win, however. If a steamer is a favourite, it’s worth bearing in mind that the market leader only wins a horse race, on average, about a third of the time. There will, nonetheless, be reasons behind such a major gamble. It could be because experts have put the horse up in their tipping columns, or the trainer and/or jockey are in-form saddling and riding recent winners.

How can I identify odds that might beat the starting price

You have to know the horses and bet decisively. One way is to place ante-post bets. Sadly, you can't find them on all races, and they come with risks attached. Ante-post betting does not guarantee you a run for your money. If you can predict which gambles will develop, and get your bet on before everyone else, then that should help you to beat SP.

You should respect any horse with excellent course and distance form in the conditions. Using odds comparison services allows you to see what prices different bookmakers have. One bookie might be slow to shorten the odds up on a horse. Then betting quickly increases your chance of getting something better than SP. A careful study of past performances and current trainer and jockey form can also throw up attractive odds for you to take early.

Book Spy: Is there value in taking the starting price of a horse

Yes, but there is no guarantee that a horse racing starting price will be better than ante-post or early prices, so you won’t win as much as you could. Bookies have a nasty habit of shortening most horses, as the off time for a race nears. They do this to protect their liabilities. As gambles develop, sometimes they have no option with the books to balance. 

There are better approaches to betting on horse racing than taking the SP. As horse racing starting price statistics reveal, market leaders lose more often than not. Getting your bets on as quickly as possible before regular mug punters put their money down is a smarter way to gamble. Failing that, using the best odds guaranteed promotion helps too. That way, you are safe if the SP is higher than the odds you took earlier.

Full list horse racing betting sites with SP

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