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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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RIPON 16:20

Thursday 30 May
8. TITIAN (IRE) 105
Ryan Sexton silk Ryan Sexton
Julie Camacho
6. COCKALORUM (IRE) 104
Jason Hart silk Jason Hart horse for course
Roger Fell & Sean Murray
3. LOYAL TOUCH (IRE) 103
Joe Fanning silk Joe Fanning
Charlie Johnston
Go to full race

LATEST HORSE RACING RESULTS

20:50 CARTMEL

1st Mr Edward Vaughan silk 1. GABORIOT (FR) 1/12f
2nd Mr John Dawson silk 2. JERRYSBACK (IRE) 7/24.5
3rd Mr James King silk 8 8. MARIO DE PAIL (FR) 13/27.5
J: Mr Edward Vaughan (7)  
9 ran. NRs: 4 
FULL RESULT

20:42 KEMPTON PARK

1st Tom Marquand silk 5. MRS TWIG (IRE) 9/52.8f
2nd Dylan Hogan silk 4. GOLD AURA 9/25.5
3rd Darragh Keenan silk sh 1. GOLDEN DOVE 12/113
J: Tom Marquand  
All 8 ran.
FULL RESULT

20:30 WEXFORD

1st Mr J. L. Gleeson silk 5. LOVELY HURLING (IRE) 6/52.2f
2nd Mr P. A. O'Donnell silk 5 11. LARAVIE (IRE) 33/134
3rd Mr H. C. Swan silk 24 2. BEAUFORT SCALE (IRE) 12/113
J: Mr J. L. Gleeson (5)  
12 ran. NRs: 10 
FULL RESULT

20:20 CARTMEL

1st Jonathan England silk 3. KILTA (IRE) 13/82.62
2nd Sean Bowen silk 1 1. DREAL DEAL (IRE) 11/102.1f
T: Sam England  
3 ran. NRs: 4 
FULL RESULT

20:12 KEMPTON PARK

1st Finley Marsh silk 3. FAIR ANGELLICA 4/15
2nd James Doyle silk 6. SHIN JIDAI 85/403.12f
3rd Tom Marquand silk ¾ 4. LOU LOU'S GIFT 4/15
J: Finley Marsh  
All 10 ran.
FULL RESULT

20:00 WEXFORD

1st A. P. Kelly silk 1. FLICKER OF HOPE (FR) 7/24.5jf
2nd Sean Flanagan silk 2 12. MAHLER APPEAL (IRE) 4/15
3rd J. P. Shinnick silk 6. TRAMPS LIKE US (IRE) 11/112
J: A. P. Kelly (5)  
12 ran. NRs: 10  14  15  16  2 
FULL RESULT

19:50 CARTMEL

1st Joe Williamson silk 11. MELVICH BAY 10/111
2nd Ben Poste silk 12. ROBINS FIELD (IRE) 9/25.5
3rd Brian Hughes silk 7. CONTRE ORDRE (FR) 5/16
J: Joe Williamson (3)  
T: Danny Brooke  
8 ran. NRs: 2  4  5  6 
FULL RESULT

19:42 KEMPTON PARK

1st Callum Shepherd silk 7. WIMBLEDON HAWKEYE 28/129
2nd Kieran Shoemark silk nk 6. INGOT 10/34.33
T: James Owen  
All 7 ran.
FULL RESULT

19:30 WEXFORD

1st Keith Donoghue silk 4. ANTRIM COAST (IRE) 5/61.83f
2nd D. King silk nk 5. OSCARS BROTHER (IRE) 6/17
3rd J. P. Shinnick silk 7. PRAY TELL (IRE) 4/15
All 8 ran.
FULL RESULT
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