The starting price (commonly referred to as the SP) is a betting term applicable to horse and greyhound racing. It refers to the odds of a runner at the time the race begins.
Traditionally, bookmakers offered punters the chance to back a runner at either the starting price or the odds available at the time the bet is struck. That remains the case even with the rise of online betting. That means that at some betting sites you are faced with a choice of taking an early price and risking the odds rising, or waiting for the SP but with the danger they could shorten.
Although the starting price is an important part of the much changed, modern world of betting, it has its roots in the more traditional, on-course bookmaking. Understanding how the starting price operates and the implications it has is important for punters who want to ensure they get the best value possible.
When to Take the Starting Price
The starting price is a very important part of the horse and greyhound racing industries in Britain. Punters who bet using the SP don’t know how big their potential winnings are until the race has taken place so it is vital for the integrity of the industry that it is set fairly.
To ensure fairness, the starting price is set by people independent of the bookmakers called ‘SP reporters’. They come up with the starting price for every runner based on an amalgamation of the odds available with bookies at the race track. The SP of a horse can vary considerably even from the prices available at the start of the race day. Big gambles take place every day with the weight of money forcing the price of one competitor in and the price of others out, so betting at the starting price can be something of a gamble in itself.
Every punter has their own subjective view on whether or not a price represents good value. If you find what you believe to be a generous early price on a horse for an upcoming race it can pay to simply take that price, rather than relying on the SP.
Those looking for a more robust, objective approach to value should consider the overround. This is the bookmakers’ in-built profit margin. Every single betting market will operate with an overround but it’s not all bad news for punters. The overround has been trimmed considerably over the last 15 years or so due, in part, to the incredibly competitive nature of online betting.
Additionally, the growth of betting exchanges such as Betfair, Betdaq (now owned by GVC Holdings and partnered with Ladbrokes) and others put serious pressure on the traditional bookmakers as the overround is almost always smaller on the exchanges’ starting price than that of a sportsbook, even with their commission taken into account.
Sometimes punters are left with no option but to take the starting price. This is typically the case very early on in the betting before the bookies have priced the runners up. If you have to get a bet on early for some reason, then the SP will be your only choice. The other time you’ll see only the starting price offered is after the final declarations have been made and the market is being reformed, so usually it will be better to wait a short while for the odds to be republished.
Best Odds Guaranteed
Bookmakers know that people approach their betting differently. Some punters like to carefully analyse the prices available and draw their own conclusions about whether a specific price represents good value or not before placing a bet. Others prefer a simple life. That’s where the brilliant and increasingly common “Best Odds Guaranteed” – unfortunately acronymed BOG – comes in.
Almost all of the biggest and best bookmakers offer BOG across their British and Irish horse racing. What it does, is ensure that punters are not disadvantaged by taking the early price. It does this by paying out at whichever is bigger, either the early price taken or the industry starting price.
Best Odds Guaranteed offers are a good way of ensuring you get the best price regardless. The one word of caution is that different bookmakers have different terms and conditions with the offer. For some it’s not applicable to multiples or combination bets and others operate with a time limit. As ever, a quick read of the Ts and Cs can save a lot of hassle further down the line.
It should also be noted that some sites may offer you the option of either the published price, or the SP. If the bookie in question offers Best Odds Guaranteed this is actually a little bit naughty and you should always take the early price (sometimes referred to as the EP). Take that and you’ll get the higher of the two odds (EP or SP), however should you opt for the SP you’ll be paid out at the starting price, even if the odds when you struck the bet were higher.