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Rowleyfile Investigates: The Industry Starting Price, part one

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In part one of his special investigation, Simon Rowlands examines the Industry Starting Price system.

“Investigations” – “Special” or otherwise – are all of a sudden flavour of the month in some parts of the racing Press, so I thought I would join in with what admittedly may prove to be no more than a fad.

This particular Investigation is into Industry Starting Prices – the ones which are customarily returned in betting shops and in results’ services – as opposed to Betfair Starting Prices. It will look at the incidences of suspiciously high take-outs, which benefit bookmakers at the expense of punters, and at what – if anything – is being done to safeguard the interests of punters in this area.

But, first, some explanation seems necessary of the mechanics of Industry Starting Prices, else what comes in part two may be difficult to follow.  

The Starting Price is used to determine the odds at which successful wagers are settled for bets for which no price was taken. Some form of it has been in existence for centuries, with an increased requirement for probity in modern times.

The current Starting Price system takes a sample of the odds available to good money at the racecourse and, in the words of The Starting Price Regulatory Commission, “are seen to be independent of the bookmakers who accept off-course bets.” It would – perish the thought – be possible to rig the Starting Price to the benefit of off-course bookmakers, were that not the case.

A piece of simple arithmetic allows us to determine the mark-up involved in any given race. If you divide the numerator of a horse’s odds by the denominator, add one and then divide that into 100, you get a horse’s odds %. Sum these for all horses in a race and anything over 100 constitutes the bookmakers’ “over-round”, or theoretical edge.

As an example, in a three-runner race in which the runners go off at 5/4, 13/8 and 10/3, the calculations are as follows:

100/((5/4)+1) = 44.4%, 100/((13/8)+1) = 38.1%, 100/((10/3)+1) = 23.1%.

The sum of these %s is 44.4 + 38.1 + 23.1 = 105.6%, with the over-round being 105.6 - 100.0 = 5.6%.

The bookmakers’ over-round is the cause of much discussion and of some misunderstanding. Over-rounds went down in the early days of Betfair, with an impact on off-course betting companies’ bottom line. They have rebounded somewhat since, though the metric customarily used – over-round per runner – is flawed, as will be shown.

In order to conduct a study of over-rounds in British Flat racing in 2014 to the end of September, I first needed to establish what the standard over-rounds were for races of different sizes and different general types. For this, I used all Flat races in Britain from 2011 to 2013 inclusive.  

 

 

 

Over-rounds increase with larger field sizes, but not as a simple multiple of the number of runners. If the latter were true, then “OR/runner” would be the same across all values and that scatter plot would be horizontal: instead, they get less as field size increases and that scatter plot heads downwards. It was also apparent that there is a negligible difference between handicaps and non-handicaps in the sample.

After a bit of smoothing of the data, I carried those par over-rounds forward to an investigation of recent incidences where betting %s have, indeed, been miserly to punters. And, having identified such instances, I considered why this had been occurring and what – if anything – was being done about it.

But that is for part two of this Investigation.

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YORK 15:35

Friday 19 August
11. HIGHFIELD PRINCESS (FR) 121
Jason Hart silk Jason Hart
John Quinn
14. ROYAL ACLAIM (IRE) 120p
Andrea Atzeni silk Andrea Atzeni horse in focus
James Tate
6. KHAADEM (IRE) 119
Ryan Moore silk Ryan Moore
Charles Hills
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LATEST HORSE RACING RESULTS

20:05 KILLARNEY

1st Mr P. W. Mullins silk 5. CAPE GENTLEMAN (IRE) 4/71.57f
2nd Mr Pat Taaffe silk 2. JERANDME (IRE) 7/18
3rd Mr D. O'Connor silk ¾ 4. THE SHUNTER (IRE) 9/25.5
8 ran. NRs: 6  9 
FULL RESULT

19:55 FONTWELL PARK

1st Tom Scudamore silk 6. BELLE NA BANN (IRE) 15/28.5
2nd Bradley Harris silk 1 1. FIRE LAKE (IRE) 11/82.37f
All 6 ran.
FULL RESULT

19:45 LEICESTER

1st Hector Crouch silk 3. THANKS MONICA (IRE) 1/12f
2nd S. B. Kirrane silk 9 4. MRS MEADER 5/16
All 6 ran.
FULL RESULT

19:35 KILLARNEY

1st Cillian McConnell silk 1. ANNA BUNINA (FR) 13/27.5
2nd S. McCullagh silk ½ 8. BAROMETER (IRE) 7/42.75f
3rd C. Horgan silk 4. BURREN SONG (IRE) 18/119
J: Cillian McConnell (4)  
10 ran. NRs: 3 
FULL RESULT

19:25 FONTWELL PARK

1st Tristan Durrell silk 1. DAZZLING GLORY (IRE) 11/43.75
2nd Brendan Powell silk 18 2. L'AIR DU VENT (FR) 15/28.5
J: Tristan Durrell (7)  
T: Dan Skelton  
All 5 ran.
FULL RESULT

19:15 LEICESTER

1st Shane Gray silk 2. SHIMMERING SANDS 5/42.25f
2nd Callum Shepherd silk 4. CONTROL 6/17
J: Shane Gray  
6 ran. NRs: 6 
FULL RESULT

19:05 KILLARNEY

1st M. P. Sheehy silk 11. LA HACIENDA 11/112
2nd N. G. McCullagh silk 1 14. AWAY TO SEA (FR) 8/19
3rd K. J. Manning silk ¾ 5. MCTIGUE (IRE) 16/117
J: M. P. Sheehy (3)  
14 ran. NRs: 13  17  18  7 
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18:55 FONTWELL PARK

1st Richie McLernon silk 1. GRAFFITI 7/42.75f
2nd Sam Twiston-Davies silk 7. NEVER NO TROUBLE 15/82.87
T: Gary Brown  
All 7 ran.
FULL RESULT

18:45 LEICESTER

1st Cieren Fallon silk 6. BONNY ANGEL 3/14f
2nd Billy Garritty silk nk 8. LILY IN THE JUNGLE (IRE) 17/29.5
3rd Connor Planas silk sh 2. LIBERATION BAY 17/29.5
T: Clive Cox  
All 11 ran.
FULL RESULT
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