One of the most exasperating parts of social media is having to read misinformed ‘facts’ daily. One of the most persistent in some quarters have been capital lettered proclamations that ‘THE SP IS BENT’.
I decided to brave a conversation on twitter, rarely a move good for your mental tranquillity. I got the impression that what the persistent moan is really about is that on rare occasions when the returned price of a favourite is out of kilter with the largest betting exchange. That is quite often the result of a well-backed horse, all day and on-course, drifting alarmingly on-line near the off. The ‘BENT SP’ scream-up is that the on-course bookmakers didn’t follow suit and chase it out reflected in their prices.
If they had already laid it on course, why would they want to chase it out again? That would make no sense at all, especially as most bookies like to get the short one in and hope to get it beaten. Contrary to popular twitter myth, most racecourse bookies don’t have everything they have taken all back on the machine to green up every race.
The SP or Starting Price is returned from the prices on the boards of on-course bookmakers in the sample. There is absolutely no obligation for on-course bookmakers to mirror exchange prices or even look at them. Yes, most layers do use the exchanges for a guide, to hedge into or both but following them blindly is not a prerequisite or indeed a reflection on their honesty or integrity.
The bigger question that should be asked but rarely is, who are the people knocking out seemingly fancied horses on the exchanges and why? That is a question more pertinent at low-liquidity all-weather meetings. The fact that the canny racecourse bookmakers don’t fall for it, then get vilified when the horse wins should raise eyebrows a notch higher.
Should that not reinforce, not put in doubt, the integrity of the SP system? Rather than being ‘BENT’ the racecourse bookies that make up the sample are the last line in defence for the off-course and high street bookmakers against faceless exchange users that might in theory attempt market manipulation?
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring