PRICES offered by on-course bookmakers will have no more than 12.5% influence on the official starting prices returned on Irish racing from next month.

Before Covid-19, the SPs were calculated solely based on racecourse betting ring prices, even though data suggested that 98% of bets on Irish racing are placed either online or in betting shops.

Pat Brennan, Horse Racing Ireland’s services manager, said: “We had been working on a new SP system before the pandemic struck. The process was accelerated when racing resumed in June 2020, after a 10-week break due to Covid. There were no bookies or punters on-course, so starting prices were calculated using data feeds from off-course betting markets.”

Even though bookmakers returned to the track last January the ‘Covid’ system of calculating starting prices has remained in place. Now the track bookies are set to regain some input into the process but at a much reduced level of influence.

A new system, which has been agreed by HRI and bookmakers both on and off course, will be implemented “in a couple of weeks” once some final technical issues are ironed out.

Brennan explained: “We presented three options to the HRI Betting Committee – revert to just relying on racecourse bookmakers, stick with the new system of just using off-course data, or use a hybrid of both, and that is the preferred option.”

Over the past two years punters have noticed a sharp increase in the number of winners returned at treble-figure prices. In August 2020 Leopardstown winner He Knows No Fear was returned at a record price of 300/1, which was matched by recent Punchestown scorer Sawbuck.

In Britain this month Hamilton winner Asatapor returned at 200/1, sharing the record for the biggest priced winner in modern times.

Brennan says the reintroduction of betting ring prices to the SP formula should not lead to shorter prices being returned. “While all racecourse bookmaker prices are sampled, we take the median price so anybody who is betting uncompetitively is ignored,” he explained.

Although the commercial aspect of the process is outside of Brennan’s remit, it is thought that racecourse bookmakers will benefit financially from again having an input into the calculation of starting prices.

“Both the Irish National Professional Bookmakers Association and the Northern Ireland equivalent are supportive of the new arrangement.

Brennan said: “Submissions were sought from the INPBA, the NIOCBA (representing on-course bookmakers in Northern Ireland) and the Irish Bookmakers Association (representing the off-course industry) and these submissions were considered in reaching the recommendation.”

INPBA chairman Ray Mulvaney said yesterday: “We welcome being back in the sample but we need to talk to HRI and SIS about how this will work before the new system is put into operation.”

Brennan added: “The HRI Betting Committee has sought to modernise the SP in a way which fairly reflects how today’s betting markets operate by extending the sample to include a greater proportion of the off-course market and at the same time ensuring the process can stand up to the highest levels of scrutiny.

“Recent discussions with Britain’s Starting Price Regulatory Commission have also confirmed their desire to implement such a system once the technology required to incorporate the on-course price becomes available in Britain.

“It is vital that any change in the process has the full support and confidence of all stakeholders, and I welcome the return of the on-course market into this new methodology which ensures accuracy, full transparency, and complete integrity of the starting price. This will benefit the industry overall.”