Following the return of horse racing behind closed doors, it was great for owners, trainers, stable staff and jockeys to finally be able to earn their corn out on the course.
But there was a concern that punters would be the ones to suffer, because without on-course bookmakers to record starting prices the onus has fallen upon the major high street and online bookies to set the SP – a concern that bettors would be left out of pocket.
However, the Horseracing Bettors’ Forum (HBF) has confirmed from their own independent study that the overround used by sportsbooks to create their margin has been lower since June 1 than for much of the preceding three years.
HBF has reiterated that they will continue to monitor the situation, however so far the picture is very positive. Using data collected from more than 15,000 races – including more than 1,000 under the new SP system – they found that the average overround is 1.52%, which is down from the 1.79% average recorded during the ‘old’ on-course odds-making set-up.
However, the picture may be changing somewhat. Specifically for races from June 1 until today, the overround percentage had increased from 1.36% to 1.6% at the end of the study period in July – meaning that punters are getting shorter odds.
Nevertheless, peaking about their findings the HBF’s chairman Colin Hord said:
“I think we are encouraged.
“At this stage we are still monitoring and collecting data – we don’t want to jump to too many conclusions at this early stage. But I think it is fair to say we are seeing some trends and we are going to keep an eye on those.”
It has been rumoured that this new SP system might even remain in place even as on-course bookmakers are punters are allowed back at trackside.
Which Are the Best Racecourses for Punters?
The Horseracing Bettors’ Forum (HBF) also records annual overround figures for each racecourse in the UK, and these are very handy for punters keen to find out where the very best of the value lies.
Give the competition among bookmakers during the Cheltenham Festival, it is perhaps no surprise to note that Cheltenham is among the most ‘value’ racecourses for punters on an annual basis, and in 2019 the overround there was 1.58%.
Nottingham also deserve equal plaudits as their overround was also 1.58%, and the general theme at all-weather tracks was that overrounds are decreasing.
However, the picture isn’t overwhelmingly positive because only 16 of the 59 courses studied showed a decrease in their overround in 2019 compared to the year before. That includes Brighton, Salisbury, Winsor, York, Kempton and Newcastle, amongst others, who are offering better value to punters now than they have been for some time.
A word of warning for anyone considering a flutter at a meeting hosted by Ffos Las. The Welsh track offers the worst value to punters from an SP perspective, with their overround hitting 2.76% in 2019 – that was a staggering increase of 0.43%. Cartmel (2.49%) as next on the rogue’s gallery as the overround on the whole was up 0.07% in 2019 – the HBF could not reach the Racecourse Association for comment on that.