What does SP stand for?
SP stands for ‘Starting Price’ and refers to the odds offered on winning, or placed, horses in the event that a punter does not take fixed odds – in the form of an ‘early’ or ‘board’ price – at the time of placing the bet. Historically, the integrity of the starting price system has been overseen by the independent Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC), which employs a team of Starting Price Validators to collate betting information from on-course bookmakers. Starting price is determined by sampling bookmakers offering standard each-way terms and is defined as the market price generally available to ‘good’ money – that is, to lose at least £500 – at the ‘off’.
However, when horse racing went behind closed doors, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, starting prices could not be returned in the traditional way. A system of ‘industry’ starting prices, using betting information from major off-course bookmakers, was adopted instead. This move was controversial, insofar that it was believed, by some, to increase bookmakers’ margins at the expense of punters. However, following further examination by the SPRC, the new system was found to decrease, rather than increase, the factored-in profit margin, or ‘overround’, per race, such that it will be retained in future.