What Does SP Mean in Horse Racing?

If horse racing odds are an expression of probability, then we might think of SP as a final prediction – the market’s final say before the event is run. When you hear that a horse has sensationally won at 100/1, it means that when the race went off, it had a starting price (SP) of 100/1. Or, put in other words, the market didn’t give it a chance!

The SP in horse racing betting can decide how much punters are paid for a winning bet, and it gives a strong indication of the market confidence in a horse. In this way, understanding SP is vital to understanding horse racing betting. And in this article, we are going to explore what it is, how it works and why it’s important.

SP Definition

SP is an acronym for starting price. This refers to the available odds on a horse at the start of the race in which it is running. For example, to say that a horse’s SP was 4.0 means that when the race started, it was priced at 4.0 to win the race.

SP is important in horse racing because it can determine the amount a punter will receive on his winning bet. It is also used in historical records of races and for compiling various statistics about certain races, racecourses, trainers, jockeys, owners etc.

How Is SP Determined?

The SP is traditionally calculated by getting the average odds on a horse offered by the on-course bookmakers at the time of the race beginning. In this way, the SP is controlled by on-track betting and the odds the bookmakers give to various horses. While some bookmakers may offer different odds on particular horses, the SP reflects the average price across all on-track bookmakers.

SP and The Horse Racing Bet Market

Understanding the concept of Starting Price (SP) is essential for punters in horse racing, as it allows them to choose between the quoted odds or the odds at the start of the race, affecting their potential payout.

Calculating Payouts

Punters having a bet on horse racing can typically decide whether they want to take the quoted odds at the time of the bet or take the SP (the odds at the time of the start of the race).

Therefore, punters who take the SP on a horse need to wait until the race finishes to find out how much money they have won if their horse has won the race. For example, if you place a $10 bet on a horse that returns an SP price of 4.0, you will get a $40 return.

Analyzing Form

SP is an important tool for punters analyzing races and predicting a horse’s future form. The starting price of a horse can be used as a gauge of how people – bettors, trainers, owners etc. – expect the horse to perform in the race. From this guide, they can make an informed judgement on whether the horse performed to expectations, exceeded expectations or underperformed.

For example, it is obvious that a horse who is given the SP of 1.5 but finishes in last place has wholly underperformed. This may lead to a punter deciding to forgive this horse’s run as an anomaly or believing that the horse is regressing and is no longer running to its former abilities.

Analysing Trainers and Jockeys

As with a horse’s expectations, analyzing SPs can be an important guide to the form of trainers and jockeys. If, for example, a trainer’s horses continue to exceed the expectations of their SP prices, it is a sign that the stable is in very good form and their horses should be treated with a lot of respect.

Similarly, if a trainer’s horses are performing below the expectations that their SPs indicate, then it can be said that their horses are out of form, and caution should be taken in betting on them.

SP vs. Fixed Odds: Compare Before You Bet

In comparison to SP, which sees bettors waiting until the time of the race for the odds they will receive on a horse, fixed odds allow bettors to take the available market price at the instant they place the bet.

For example, if you place a bet ten minutes before the race start time, fixed odds allow you to take the price of the market horse at that very moment. In this scenario, the SP does not have any effect on your payout.

SP Betting: Advantages

  • Fair Reflection – With fixed-odds betting, the market, particularly in the final minutes before the race, can be volatile. Moreover, if the market is in its early stages, it can be illiquid, and its prices are an unfair representation of each horse’s predicated chances. But by taking the SP price, you are assured that you are receiving a price that is a fair reflection of the horse’s predicted chances based on betting market activity.
  • Drifters – Imagine you take the fixed-odds price on a horse that is 6.0 only to see its price drift all the way out to 11.0 by the time of the race. If the horse happens to win, your profit will be half of what it could have been if you had taken the SP. Therefore, taking the SP price will give you a better price on a horse whose odds drift (i.e. get bigger) after you have placed the bet.

SP Betting: Disadvantages

  • Gambled Horses – For the same reason that drifters are bad for fixed-odds bettors, a horse shortening in price is a disadvantage for SP bettors.
  • Imagine you fancy a horse that is 11.0 but decide to take the SP price. After you place this bet, the horse is subsequently popular in the market, and its price goes all the way down to 6.0. If it wins, you only get 6.0, whereas if you had taken the fixed odds price, you could have gotten 11.0.
  • Stake Planning – Another advantage of fixed-odds betting is the certainty of your potential returns. Oftentimes, punters decide on their staking place by how much they could win, but by taking the SP, you don’t have a definite idea of how much you could win.

Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG)

A significant boon for punters has been the offer of Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG) from bookmakers. Simply, punters can take the current market price on a horse in the safe knowledge that they will be given a better price if its SP is a bigger price. For example, you bet on a horse at 3/1, but by the time it has drifted out to 6/1. Don’t worry because, with BOG, you will be given 6/1 regardless. In this way, bookmakers offering BOG have alleviated the conundrum for punters trying to decide between taking the fixed odds or the SP.

Where to Find SP for Ontario Bettors

Information on the SP of horses in every race run can be found on various sites, including StandardBredCanada. If watching the race on television or through an online stream, the prices that are displayed on the screen after the race for the winner and placed horses are the SPs.

Expert’s Conclusion on Horse Racing SP

The starting price or SP of a horse is a final reflection of the betting market’s prediction on its chances of winning the race. While up to the moment the race goes off, the market prices of each horse can fluctuate dramatically, the SP is set in stone and is recorded in the history books in this way. The SP can decide the winnings of punters who take this betting option. But even if Best Odds Guaranteed has somewhat lessened the impact of the SP on bookmaker payouts, it remains a key gambling metric for understanding a horse’s performance and has a host of statistical implications that can guide bettors to make better selections.

FAQs About Horse Racing SP

The SP is the price of a horse when a race starts. SP stands for starting price.

The betting market, like the stock exchange, is volatile, so taking the SP can increase your winnings as much as it can decrease them.

An SP bookie is a firm that only offers SP prices on horses. This is in contrast to bookies who offer fixed-odd prices or Best Odds Guaranteed for bets.

There is no definitive right or wrong moment to use SP in horse racing. If you are not able to avail of Best Odds Guaranteed, you should trust your instinct if you think the price is likely to contract or detract.

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6+ Years of Experience in Horse Racing Betting
Eamon Doggett - Horse Racing Expert Writer at GambleOntario photo

Horse Racing Expert Writer

Eamon Doggett


9 Articles

Eamon has been involved in sports journalism for over six years. If asked to identify his enduring sporting passion, however, horse racing would always be the answer. Eamon has a keen interest in Canadian horse races. Most of all, he enjoys writing betting-themed articles that can give punters an edge over bookmakers for more profitable bets. He is an advocate of betting on big-priced outsiders for long-term gain and making the best use of alternative markets.

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