How is ‘starting price’ determined?

Traditionally, the starting price (SP) of any horse was determined by sampling the prices available, to ‘good’ money – or, in other words, to lose at least £500 in a single bet – from a selection of on-course bookmakers at the scheduled off time. Having compiled a list of prices, typically from a sample of between six and 24 bookmakers, SP reporters would order that list from longest to shortest, divide it in two and return the shortest price in the top half as the official SP. Thus, the SP, or a longer price, would have been available from at least half the bookmakers sampled.

However, having considered the decision ‘long and hard’, according to its chairman, Lord Donoghue, the Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC) announced, in March, 2021, that it was moving away from the traditional SP system. With horse racing forced behind closed doors, as the result of the Covid-19 pandemic, on-course betting has dwindled away to almost negligible proportions, prompting the introduction of an SP system using mainly off-course odds. As and when bookmakers return to racecourses, on-course prices are expected to contribute between 10% and 12.5% to the overall sample.