Horses in Starting GateIf you’re new to betting and have recently come across an option called Starting Price or SP, as it’s more commonly referred to, you may be wondering what that actually means.

In simple terms, the starting price is the price that the bookmaker offers on the horse as it starts the race. It’s likely that you’re aware that odds tend to change in the lead up to races. They can shorten or drift (lengthen) depending on how much money has been wagered. It’s for this reason that the starting price has been brought in.

Why is starting price an option?

As a punter, with most bookmakers you are going to be able to choose the current price at the time of betting or the starting price. If you take the starting price you don’t actually know what the odds will be come the start of the race. A huge majority of money wagered on each horse race is taken in the 5 minutes prior to the race starting, which means that it’s only at this point that prices start to really fluctuate.
Horse Racing Betting Market
By choosing the SP you essentially bypass your option to choose the current price in favour for taking whatever price that horse starts the race at. It’s a fairly common bet for a lot of punters, but it’s definitely been one that we have seen less of, more of which we will talk about later.

Why would you take the SP over the current price?

Lengthening Horse Racing OddsNot knowing what price, you are going to take is a tough one for many punters to grasp. They often argue that the price could massively shorten by the time the race starts and then you’ve missed out on a lot of value, which is highly plausible.

But, the main reason someone would take the SP over the current price is usually down to availability. Let’s say for instance that you wanted to bet on a race, but had to go to work some 30 minutes before that race started. There was no way that you would be around nearer the start time so this was your only opportunity to bet.

You’d had a great tip that this horse had every chance to win and over the previous hour the horse had drifted in price from odds of 4/1 to that of 7/1. The price looked like it was going to continue that way and by the time the race started it was highly likely that the price would drift further.

Taking the SP in this scenario would be a good play. The likelihood of horses who have drifted so much to all of a sudden shorten dramatically is very slim, but the chance of drifting is very real due to the lack of money coming in and the increase of money going on other horses.

By taking the SP you are giving yourself the best chance to get as high odds as possible, which is what this game is all about.

Why do the prices move?

Money Flow Between Two PeopleThe bookmakers price is heavily driven by the amount of money that comes in from their punters. As they open a book (series of odds on an event), they are essentially setting their best guess at the likelihood of the winner of a specific race.

So, for a horse race, the odds are reflecting the chance each horse has of winning that race given the information that the bookmakers have on hand. The last part of this sentence plays a huge role in setting prices and moving odds.

You see, as more information becomes available, the bookmaker is able to make more informed decisions as to how each selection might perform. They can then relate this information to their betting odds and in turn, change them.

For example, if a horse is down in the parade ring looking particularly uneasy or sweating profusely, it’s likely there is an issue, which reduces the chances of it running well. The price for this horse might lengthen as a result, which will have a knock-on effect for other horses in that same race, often shortening their prices.

This actually works both ways for the punters as well. A lot of punters are able to get access to a huge amount of information for dozens of sports all around the world. Thank you, internet!

Punters are able to adapt that information and compare it to the odds on offer. This is essentially how you find value in a bet. Think the bet is offering better odds than the chances you give it of winning equals value, think a bet is under-priced, no value.

This also has a direct reflection on the amount of money that is wagered. The bookies have to react to this as it’s what allows them to ‘Green Up’. This term is used to lock in a net win or break even on all or as many results as possible. To do this they need to back and lay selections at certain odds, which also means taking in a certain amount of money on that selection as well.

By moving the price, it does one of two things. It either encourages people to bet on a market, which is achieved by lengthening the price or it discourages which is achieved by shortening a price. The movement of price also reflects an unbalanced market, meaning that they need to take more money on some selections than others.
Horse Racing Betting Exchange Market
The betting exchange has negated a lot of this as it allows bookmakers to jump on and back or lay selections where needed. But, if you take a look at the last 10 minutes prior to any horse race today, you will see that the price shifts quite considerably at times.

Can price movement help?

Graph Showing fluctuating Betting OddsDefinitely, price movements can not only allow you to take the best odds on certain selections to gain more money, but it can also highlight which bets might be good to back.

For example, if you see that the price on a horse has shifted from 10/1 into 3/1, then you know that people are backing it for a reason. A huge odds shift like this means the bookmakers are running scared and are trying to discourage wagers on this horse. Why? Well, mainly because it’s got a great chance of winning, something that probably wasn’t picked up prior to the start of the race.

The introduction of betting exchanges has helped with picking off these types of price shifts quite easily. The likes of Betfair allow you to see how markets and prices have changed over a prolonged period of time.

As a bit of advice, a good rule of thumb is to follow the money. Vast sums that are wagered generally aren’t on whims and there is some reason why the bookmaker is taking action.

Best odds guaranteed (BOG)

We’ve spoken in this article about how the Starting Price works and now we want to highlight a reason why you never need to take the SP ever again.

Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG) is a promotion that many bookmakers offer where you are able to get just that, the best odds guaranteed. The offer is that if you place a bet before any horse race with that horse going on to win, if the starting price is higher, they will pay out at the higher odds.

For consistent bettors, there are few better promotions in the industry than this and more and more bookies are starting to get involved with it, such is the popularity.

As a quick example, let’s say you place a pre-race bet of £10 at odds of 4/1 some 30 minutes before the start of the race. By the time the race starts, the horses starting price actually goes off at 7/1. Your horse wins the race, but instead of paying out at the 4/1 price that you took, the bookmaker will actually pay out – in cash – the 7/1 starting price.

Below are some examples of odds both lengthening and shortening with the returns shown for a £10 single bet where Best Price Guaranteed is taken and where it is unavailable and the Start Price is taken.

Price Taken Starting Price BOG Returns Returns Without BOG
2/1 5/2 £35 £35
5/2 2/1 £35 £30
4/1 7/1 £80 £80
7/1 4/1 £80 £50
25/1 33/1 £340 £340
33/1 25/1 £340 £260

The reason that this eliminates the need to take a starting price is no matter what, at the time you place your bet, you are going to be getting the highest odds. If the price shortens then you still take the longer odds at the time of betting, but if the price lengthens then you get the longer starting price.

Let’s say you decide to take the starting price. If the price lengthens from the price at the time of placing your bet, then you come in quid’s in as you get the longer price. But, if it shortens then you get a shorter price than the odds currently were at the time of betting.