What Does SP Mean in Horse Racing?

In the realm of horse racing and betting, understanding specific terms is crucial for bettors and enthusiasts.

One such term is “SP” or Starting Price.

This guide aims to explain what SP means in horse racing and betting.

What Is Starting Price (SP)?

The Starting Price, commonly abbreviated as SP, refers to the odds on a horse at the start of a race. These odds are set based on the bets placed by bettors and are used to determine payouts in certain types of bets.

How Is SP Determined?

The Starting Price (SP) in horse racing is determined through a process that balances the bets made by the public with the odds offered by bookmakers:

  • Bookmaker Odds: Bookmakers at the race track set initial odds for each horse based on their assessment of each horse’s chances.
  • Betting Activity: As bettors place wagers, bookmakers adjust these odds. The volume of bets on each horse influences these adjustments.
  • Balancing the Book: Bookmakers aim to balance their books so that they make a profit regardless of the race outcome. This balancing act affects the odds changes.
  • Final Odds: Just before the race starts, the SP is determined. It’s the final odds available at the track, representing a consensus of the bookmakers’ odds at race time.
  • Independent SP Reporters: In some regions, independent SP reporters watch the odds offered by various bookmakers and calculate the average odds for each horse to determine the official SP.

The SP is thus a dynamic figure, shaped by the interaction between bookmaker odds and public betting leading up to the start of the race.

Types of Bets Involving SP

Bets involving the Starting Price (SP) in horse racing include:

  • SP Betting: This is a direct bet on a horse at the SP. Bettors choose this option when they prefer to accept the odds as they are at the start of the race, rather than taking fixed odds earlier.
  • Each-Way Betting at SP: Bettors can place an each-way bet at the SP, which means they are betting on a horse to either win or place (i.e., finish in one of the top positions). The place part of the bet is settled at a fraction of the SP.
  • Best Odds Guaranteed (BOG): Offered by some bookmakers, this type of bet allows punters to take fixed odds when they place their bet. If the SP is higher than those odds, the bettor is paid out at the SP.
  • Ante-Post Betting: While not directly involving the SP, ante-post bets are affected by it. These are bets placed in advance of the day’s race card publication. The odds can significantly differ from the SP on the day of the race.
  • Tote Betting: In tote betting, the payout is not at the SP but is based on the size of the betting pool. However, tote odds are often compared to the SP as a benchmark to assess value.

These bets use the SP as a key factor in determining payouts, offering different strategies and levels of risk for bettors.

Why Would I Bet Using the SP Instead of Fixed Odds?

Betting using the Starting Price (SP) instead of fixed odds can be advantageous in certain situations:

  • Market Movements: If you believe the odds for a horse will shorten (improve) closer to the race time, betting at SP can secure these potentially better odds.
  • Flexibility: SP betting is useful if you’re unsure about the best odds to take when placing your bet, as it adapts to the final market conditions.
  • Convenience: It eliminates the need to constantly monitor odds movements, as the SP automatically reflects the final odds at race start.

Overall, SP betting is a strategy employed when you anticipate favorable market shifts or seek simplicity in betting decisions.

Factors Influencing SP

Several factors influence the Starting Price (SP) in horse racing:

  • Bettor Activity: The amount and distribution of money wagered on each horse significantly impact the SP. A surge in bets on a particular horse will typically shorten (lower) its odds.
  • Bookmaker Strategies: Bookmakers adjust odds based on their need to balance the book (manage risk and ensure profit). They respond to betting patterns to minimise potential losses.
  • Horse’s Form and Reputation: The perceived chances of a horse, based on its past performance, training reports, and reputation among punters and experts, can influence betting behavior and thus the SP.
  • Track Conditions: The condition of the race track, affected by weather or other factors, can change the perceived chances of different horses, impacting how bets are placed.
  • Market Sentiment: General sentiment1 and trends in the betting market, including tips and expert opinions, can sway public betting patterns, affecting the odds.
  • Late News: Last-minute news, such as a change in jockey or a horse’s withdrawal, can lead to sudden shifts in betting, altering the SP.

These factors collectively create a dynamic environment where the SP is the final product of various changing elements leading up to the race start.

SP vs Betfair Starting Price

The Starting Price (SP) and the Betfair Starting Price (BSP) are similar in concept but differ in how they are calculated and where they are used:

SP (Starting Price): The SP is determined by the bookmakers at the racecourse, based on the betting activity at the track. It reflects the consensus of the bookmakers’ odds at the start of the race.

BSP (Betfair Starting Price): The BSP is specific to the Betfair betting exchange. It is calculated using an algorithm that takes into account all bets placed in the market both to back and to lay a horse.

The BSP often offers better value and more transparency as it is purely driven by the supply and demand of the betting exchange market, without bookmaker margins.

In summary, while both SP and BSP serve as a benchmark for the odds at the start of a race, BSP is generally seen as a more true reflection of the market, often providing better odds due to the nature of the exchange betting environment.

Why Is the SP Important in Horse Racing?

The Starting Price (SP) is important in horse racing2 for several reasons:

Betting Decisions: It offers a benchmark for bettors to decide whether to take fixed odds earlier or wait for the SP, which could potentially offer better value depending on market movements.

Fair Payouts: The SP ensures fair payouts to bettors who choose to bet at SP. It reflects the final consensus of the odds for each horse at the start of the race, balancing the interests of both bettors and bookmakers.

Market Indicator: The SP serves as an important indicator of market sentiment and the perceived chances of each horse, providing insight into how the betting public and bookmakers view the race’s outcome.

Overall, the SP plays a crucial role in the betting process, influencing betting strategies and ensuring a fair and transparent system for calculating payouts.


Starting Price (SP) plays a vital role in horse racing betting, representing the final odds on a horse at race start.

It is a dynamic figure, influenced by various factors including public betting trends.

Understanding SP helps bettors make informed decisions, especially when deciding between fixed odds and accepting the SP.


What does SP mean in horse racing?

In horse racing, “SP” stands for Starting Price, which refers to the odds on a horse at the start of the race. These odds are determined by the betting pools and the bookmakers’ assessments, reflecting the market’s final consensus on each horse’s chances of winning.

How is the SP worked out?

The Starting Price (SP) in horse racing is calculated based on the bets placed in the betting market at the race track. Bookmakers adjust the odds as bets are made, and the SP is determined at the start of the race, reflecting the final odds offered. This process is influenced by the volume and distribution of bets placed on each horse, balancing the book for the bookmaker.

Find out more about horse racing betting:


  1. https://scholarworks.umb.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1010&context=financialforum_pubs ↩︎
  2. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2326943 ↩︎