What does SP mean in horse racing?

Abbreviated as SP, the starting price reflects the official odds for a horse that are quoted at the start of a race. They're determined based on an average of the on-course bookmakers odds for the horse.

Horses in the starting gate at Bath Racecourse.

If you’re reading this, it’s because you have seen the letters ‘SP’ in the odds column for a horse race and are wondering what SP means in horse racing odds.

The short answer is the letters SP stand for ‘starting price’ in a horse race.

The starting price is the price, or fixed odds, at which a horse is trading at a racecourse at the moment the race in question gets underway.

How is starting price calculated?

The method for setting the starting price varies between countries where horseracing takes place.

In the United Kingdom the starting price is set by the Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC) using the following method:

  1. The prices offered on every horse in a race by on-course bookmakers are ordered in a list from longest to shortest.
  2. The list is then divided into two halves.
  3. The SP is selected from the shortest odds available in the half of the list with the longer odds.

This method ensures that the starting price will have been offered by at least half of the bookmakers on the course.

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The Betfair Starting Price

Betfair, the world’s largest betting exchange, has its own process for setting a starting price, known as the Betfair Starting Price.

This Starting Price is set using Betfair horse racing SP data on the Betfair exchanges, with the odds derived from the prices set by punters for both lay and back bets.

The Betfair starting price tends to be better than that offered by fixed odds bookmakers, for example the William Hill starting price, particularly for longer-odds entries.

When is the SP displayed?

An odds table displaying SP starting price values for bet365, Paddy Power and William Hill bookmakers.

The starting price can be displayed as a horse’s price at any point in the run-up to a race as an alternative to the fixed price being offered by the bookmaker.

The SP may also display instead of an actual number when punters attempt to bet on a race where bookies have yet to set odds for the race.

Beating the SP

Many punters want to know how to beat the SP in horse racing – i.e. how to get a better price than the SP on their selections.

In the past this meant trying to determine which way a market was moving and choosing either the SP or the fixed odds accordingly.

Today, beating the SP couldn’t be easier.

All you need to do is place your racing bets at a bookie offering a ‘best price’ offer, using the fixed odds price.

The best price offer then guarantees that a winning bet will be paid out at the SP if this was higher than the odds you selected at the moment the race got underway.

View currently available best price offers

SP betting FAQ

What is starting price betting?

Starting price betting involves placing bets using the SP. There is little sense in using the SP to bet in modern racing, as a bookie offering a best price guarantee will allow you to bet at fixed odds and still get the SP on your entry if it is higher than the price you selected and your horse wins.

What is the difference between an early price and a starting price?

An early price is the first price offered by a bookmaker on race day. This differs from the SP which is the price at which a horse starts a race.

When it comes down to horse racing early price vs SP, you’re best off taking the early price with a best price guarantee.

What is the biggest SP in horse racing history?

It’s unusual for horses to start a race at odds over 250/1 at traditional bookmakers. Horses have occasionally won at this price. An example is Equinoctal who won a handicap hurdle race at Kelso Racecourse priced at 250/1. However, horses routinely win at much higher Betfair Starting Prices. While records are incomplete, Betfair reports that in 2017 Kilahara Castle won a race at Thurles at a starting price of 1000/1.

What is the shortest SP in horse racing history?

Man o’ War is recognized as one of the greatest racehorses of all time and is the lowest priced winner we have found on record. He started the Stuyvesant Handicap in 1920 priced at odds of 1/100. In the UK the great Eclipse holds the record for the lowest starting price, going off in the 1770 150 Guineas priced at 1/70.

What does the SP favourite mean in horse racing?

The SP favourite is the horse in the field allocated the lowest starting price at the moment the race gets underway.

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