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What Does ‘SP’ Mean in Horse Racing?

What Does ‘SP’ Mean in Horse Racing?

Horse racing terminology can be baffling to the uninitiated, but it is important to get to grips with it if you’re planning on wagering on the sport.

The starting price (SP) is the key bit of information you need to understand when placing bets, as this helps to determine two crucial factors.

The SP effectively tells you the likelihood of a particular outcome occurring and helps you calculate how much you will win if your bet is successful. Read on as we take a closer look at the SP in racing.

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The SP basics

The SP is the odds given to each participant in a horse race which are generated on-course soon after each event begins.

For horse racing betting in the United Kingdom, the SP for each runner is set by the consensus of an appointed panel based on their observations of market movements amongst on-course bookmakers.

The main function of the SP is to determine the returns on successful bets where the odds were not taken at that the time the bet was placed.

Each horse is given odds by bookies in the run-up to the race, with the shortest price denoting the favourite for that particular event.

Those odds can fluctuate dependent on how much is wagered on each of the horses as the bookies strive to ensure they make a profit on each race.

Making the right decision

When you place a bet on a horse race a bookie will give you the option of either taking the odds being offered at that time or allowing it to be settled at SP.

Taking the odds offered effectively locks you in to a particular price and lets you work out in advance exactly how much you will win if your bet is successful.

However, if you decide to place an SP bet, your wager is subject to market fluctuations which means the odds could either increase or decrease.

Some bookmakers offer best odds guaranteed on selected races, meaning that if the SP is higher than the price you took they will pay you out at those odds.

For races where this is not applicable, it can be deeply satisfying for punters who obtain value by having a winning bet at a higher SP than they were expecting.

Curley coup highlights the power of the SP

Legendary Irish trainer Barney Curley understood the importance of securing the best possible odds during his long-running battle with the bookies.

He had run a horse named Yellow Sam in a series of races over distances and courses that wouldn’t suit in order to cash in further down the line.

That day finally came in 1975, when Curley famously sent hundreds of people to bookies around Ireland to back the horse to win a hurdle race at Bellewstown.

With another Curley associate preventing bookies from offsetting their liabilities by hogging the only on-course telephone at the course, Yellow Sam’s SP was returned as 20/1.

The horse duly won the race to bag Curley a profit of around £300,000 – which in today’s money equates to a significant seven-figure sum!

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