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The starting price, or SP as it’s sometimes referred to, is the price a horse goes off at when a race gets underway.
These prices are set by on-course bookmakers but are largely governed by what happens on the betting exchange. When placing a bet on the day of a race, a bookmaker should offer a customer the option of placing the bet at the starting price or placing the bet at the time of striking the bet. Many off-course bookmakers (especially online bookmakers) now offer best odds guaranteed (BOG), which means that if a price is taken at the time of the bet and the starting price is larger, they will pay out the starting price, ensuring that the customer has received the best odds.
This often means taking the price at the time the bet is struck is a no-brainer. However, best odds guaranteed is not something on-course bookmakers generally offer and it’s always worth checking terms and conditions to make sure your online bookmaker or local shop does. With regards to ante post selections, even bookmakers who offer best odds guaranteed won’t apply the offer to ante post bets and horses regularly go off at a larger price on the day of the race than the prices that were available ante post in the weeks prior. This has contributed to the decline of ante post markets in recent years.
Starting Prices were originally set by money taken at the racecourse but with attendance numbers dwindling and with more racing than ever, the start price now usually mirrors what happens on the betting exchange. There are exceptions to this. For example, if there’s a short priced favourite in a race, bookmakers may take evasive action from people trying to “steal” each-way money. Prices on the exchanges will often represent much better value for win purposes because they’re not vulnerable to an each-way bet and are only considering the win percentage chance. This also works the opposite way with place markets on the exchange actually representing poor value in comparison to betting each-way with bookies.
In 2015 The Starting Price Regulatory Committee (SPRC) invited those who considered the present system dysfunctional to come forward with a new system in an attempt to quell spiralling over-round profits made by bookmakers. However, as things stand it looks like the current system is here to stay.