What the hell does Starting Price (SP) mean?

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Sooner or later you will come across the letters ‘SP’, when trying to place a bet on either horse or greyhound racing. So, what exactly does ‘SP’ mean for us as matched bettors? Well, it stands for ‘Starting Price’, and very simply means that the odds of that selection are no longer visible on the bookmakers site and will only be finalised when the race begins. You can, of course, still place a bet on your selection, however you will not know what the odds are at that time.

How is the starting price calculated and by whom? Well for the most part it is the Racecourse hosting the race which determines the starting price. Whilst there are some variations in the way they go about it, in general they follow the rule below:

“For each horse (dog) in a race the prices on offer by all bookmakers in the sample are ordered into a list from longest to shortest. The list is then divided into two equal halves and the SP is the shortest odds available in the half containing the longest odds. The SP or a longer price will have been offered by at least half the bookmakers in the sample.”

There are certain bookmakers out there who will almost always use SP odds for both horse and greyhound racing, only showing the numerical odds minutes before the race is due to start. Why do they do this? More often than not, the bookmakers that employ this practice regularly are those that state ‘best odds guaranteed’ when it comes to horse or greyhound racing. They can guarantee this by ensuring that the pay-out will be either based on the SP or on the ante post price (Ante Post is a phrase used for bets placed at least a day in advance of the event).

So, for example, if the ante post odds for a horse are 6.00 and the SP comes in at 5.50, then bookmaker payout at odds of 6.00. As you can see, this gives the bookmakers a degree of control over their profit/loss and the volatile markets of horse and greyhound racing.

If, as matched bettors, you manage to place a back bet on a horse before the market shifts to SP bets only, then this can lead to very profitable situations - similar to those a few of our users have experienced with ‘Price boost’ odds. Let’s say you manage to place a back/lay bet of 15/14.9, but then the SP odds end up being higher – resulting in a back/lay bet of 16/14.9. Now, if your bet wins in the exchange you will make the same profit you originally calculated. However, if it wins in the bookmaker, you will make even more profit because of the ‘best odds guarantee’!

It is worth noting that not all bookmakers follow this format. Some, actually do things the opposite way around. Choosing to restrict the market to SP only for the entire duration of the race being listed on their site – making the odds visible only a couple of hours before the race. In theory, this gives bookmakers more control over the odds. As a result, this tactic appears to be becoming more common amongst bookies.

So, does this mean we, as Matched Bettors, should love SP races? Well, only if you manage to get your bet on before the market changes to accepting SP selections only. However, races that have already changed to taking SP bets only, are utterly useless for us because we are not able to calculate the bet in order to determine our lay stake.

There are some bookmakers out there who offer SP only and never accept any other odds in the build up to a race. For these bookmakers, you would be well advised to avoid Horse/Greyhound racing altogether and look at other sporting events instead.

Every so often you will find an odds match on the Head&Heads Oddsmatching software that has back odds for a Horse Race. However, when you reach the bookmaker site it is only offering ‘SP’ odds. When this occurs, it is an example of how the bookmaker will have odds placed ‘behind’ what you see visually on their website. Unfortunately, there is absolutely nothing Heads&Heads can do about this, it is not something we can tell the software to avoid when pulling in the odds. So, if you do find yourself in this situation, you should not place a back bet on SP odds. Just avoid it and find another odds match.

If in doubt, follow this simple rule; SP does not impress me!