Warning for punters after Ffos Las comes under scrutiny in SP investigation
A study by the Horseracing Bettors Forum into starting prices in 2017 has identified an "alarming level of overrounds at Ffos Las", including one occasion – on August 25 – when the collective SPs in every race were far in excess of what might usually be expected.
The HBF, in a study published on Sunday, has suggested Ffos Las may be a racecourse “to steer clear of until an explanation – not to mention a solution – has been provided”.
HBF member Steve Tilley, joint-author of the study with HBF chair Simon Rowlands, said: “We set out to see if there was evidence that particular courses were notably good or bad for punters betting at starting prices, but never imagined we'd discover such an extreme outlier as that provided by Ffos Las.
"Anyone betting at SP there in 2017 was regularly being short-changed, and to a sizeable degree.”
The highlighted August 25 meeting featured seven races with only two having full each-way betting and winners at 5-1, 5-4, 1-4, 3-1, 5-1, 3-1 and 9-2.
The ten-runner race won by the 1-4 favourite produced the worst overround, at 143 per cent, with the seven-runner race having 3-1 co-favourites of three and an overround of 131 per cent.
In its 2016 report the Starting Price Regulatory Commission stated: "The average overround per runner has been very stable over the last three years at around 1.7 per cent.
"Before the establishment of the SPRC in 2003 the overround was much higher, over two per cent usually, although the SPRC acknowledges that the arrival of betting exchanges may have been one factor in the reduction of the average overround."
Dai Walters, owner of Ffos Las, was amazed at Sunday's revelation.
"I've never had a complaint about bookmakers and their prices at Ffos Las," he said. "I'll be looking at it and will discuss it with the bookmakers."
Rowlands added: “In a properly regulated industry these sorts of things would be picked up and investigated as they happen, and any systemic flaws would be addressed quickly.
"But the SPRC has demonstrated no interest in responding formally to correspondence about such matters from HBF, let alone in tackling a subject like this. The forum intends raising this with the Gambling Commission.”
It was only two years ago the SPRC held a consultation into the future of the SP system after an outcry about the 2015 Grand National at Aintree.
The 39 runners returned an overround of 165 per cent, with Sir Anthony McCoy's last National ride, Shutthefrontdoor, sent off 6-1 favourite behind 25-1 winner Many Clouds.
The SPRC received just 15 responses in the six-month consultation, ranging from arguing for the status quo to radical change.
It concluded that the case for the SP’s abolition had not been made, adding: "It is a tried and tested system. It is simple to understand, punctiliously administered and the number of complaints the SPRC receives about its operations is negligible.
"It does what it says on the tin. Sophisticated punters who prefer a different flavour have opportunities to place their money elsewhere."
The HBF study also identified Chelmsford and Towcester as having been conspicuously disadvantageous to SP punters in 2017, while Nottingham and Catterick came out best of Britain’s 60 racecourses by the same measures.
How Britain's tracks compare
Figure given is the overround compared to par, with a positive value an excess (i.e. poorer value-betting track than par) and a negative value a better-value betting track than par