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Rowleyfile Investigates: The Industry Starting Price, part one


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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1st Saffie Osborne silk 1. EQUALITY 10/34.33f
2nd Zak Wheatley silk hd 11. ARECIBO (FR) 20/121
3rd Aidan Keeley silk 14. GLORIOUS ANGEL (IRE) 9/110
15 ran. NRs: 2  9 


1st Clifford Lee silk 7. LIAMARTY DREAMS 7/24.5f
2nd Benoit de la Sayette silk 3. STREET KID (IRE) 13/27.5
3rd Connor Beasley silk hd 11. ON A SESSION (USA) 10/111
J: Clifford Lee  
T: K. R. Burke  
11 ran. NRs: 10 


1st Clifford Lee silk 1. ICE MAX 15/82.87
2nd Joe Fanning silk 7. INDIVIDUALISM 13/82.62f
3rd Oisin James Orr silk 5. JOHNNY RINGO 9/110
J: Clifford Lee  
T: K. R. Burke  
8 ran. NRs: 2 


1st Rachael Blackmore silk 4. GUA DU LARGE (FR) 5/23.5
2nd Keith Donoghue silk ¾ 3. DUTCH SCHULTZ 2/13f
All 4 ran.


1st Aidan Keeley silk 14. DESTINADO 14/115
2nd Jason Hart silk nk 10. SIMPLE STAR (IRE) 14/115
3rd George Wood silk 1. PLUS POINT 4/15f
J: Aidan Keeley (3)  
T: James Owen  
13 ran. NRs: 4 


1st W. M. Lordan silk 23. REDSHORE CITY (IRE) 9/110
2nd M. W. Hassett silk sh 5. PINAR DEL RIO 11/112
3rd K. J. Leonard silk nk 19. UN BACIO ANCORA (IRE) 18/119
4th N. M. Crosse silk nk 28. LAYOFTHELAND (IRE) 100/1101
J: W. M. Lordan  
27 ran. NRs: 7 


1st S. D. Torrens silk 11. PRINCE OF AIR (FR) 10/111
2nd M. P. O'Connor silk 7. MAHLERS COVE (IRE) 3/14f
3rd J. W. Kennedy silk 6. ERIGMOOR 10/34.33
All 13 ran.


1st Saffie Osborne silk 9. KELPIE GREY 16/117
2nd Jason Hart silk 11. PALLAS LORD (IRE) 11/112
3rd Alistair Rawlinson silk ½ 5. BELL SHOT (IRE) 9/25.5f
T: Jim Goldie  
All 14 ran.


1st Sam Twiston-Davies silk 1. CELTIC DINO (FR) 4/91.44f
2nd Harry Cobden silk ½ 2. JACKPOT DES BORDES (FR) 4/15
3rd Rex Dingle silk 5. WASHINGTON SINGER 20/121
T: Sam Thomas  
All 10 ran.
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