What does starting price mean?

‘Starting price’ is a fairly self-explanatory term insofar that it describes the official odds at which a horse starts a race or, in other words, the odds available to bettors at the ‘off’ of the race in question. If a bettor strikes a bet on British horse racing with a licensed bookmaker, on the High Street or online, and fails to to take a fixed price – that is an ‘early’, or ‘board’, price – before the race gets underway, that bet is settled using the starting price (SP).

According to the ‘Racing Post’, an estimated 50% of bets on horse racing in betting shops are settled at SP. SP is also in intrisuc to best odds guaranteed (BOG), offered by some, but not all, bookmakers, whereby bets are settled at the fixed price taken or the SP, whichever is bigger.

The responsibility for ensuring that the returned starting price accurately reflects the odds available at the ‘off’ of each race falls to an independent body known as the Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC). Historically, the starting price was based, exclusively, on betting shows from on-course bookmakers, subject to qualifying criteria specified by the SPRC.

However, a review of the procedure, conducted by the SPRC in 2020/21, concluded that on-course prices, alone, no longer produced an accurate starting price, granted that just 1.4% of bets on horse racing are actually struck on the racecourse. Consequently, since May 1, 2022, starting price has been determined mainly using off-course prices from a sample of bookmakers who comprise a ‘significant share’ of the overall betting market, again subject to qualifying criteria.