The effects of the coronavirus, which has led to widespread cancellations of sporting events in the UK are now being felt by the racing industry. And for UK horse racing punters there will be a significant change in the way that one of the key factors in horse racing betting works.
With racing in Scotland already affected by the Scottish government’s rule about the banning of gatherings of more than 500 people, Monday’s race meeting at Kelso is set to go ahead behind closed doors, although racing throughout the UK is likely to follow suit. And that means that the usual method for calculating the starting price (SP) of horses in each race, which is usually based on prices offered by on-course bookmakers, cannot be operated.
As a result, the industry’s Starting Price Regulatory Commission (SPRC) has developed another approach to finalise the official SP. The alternative system that will operate at Kelso, and which could become a model for the rest of the industry, will involve eight bookmakers, including Paddy Power, Betfred, Boylesports and William Hill, providing their prices through the Press Association. This information will then be used to produce a final SP. It is understood that the normal process of turning the various prices into the SP will be followed as usual.
Speaking about the arrangement, the Chairman of the SPRC, Lord Donoghue, said that the organisation had been involved in ongoing discussions on the issue to prepare for all race meetings being held without spectators. And the new SP calculation received a cautious welcome from Colin Hord, the Horseracing Bettors Forum chairman:
“In these exceptional circumstances there is no alternative. We will monitor the SPs, starting with Kelso.”
Meanwhile, in Ireland, where racing has already been taking place with no spectators, the SP has been calculated by racing company SIS, using the same method they employ for race meetings in locations such as France and Dubai, which have no on-course betting.