Spread betting began, horse racing markets accounted for the majority of the business. That figure has steadily dropped over the years as other sports have attracted new clients and other forms of betting—internet accounts, telephone credit accounts and one-to-one trading on sites such as Betfair have rocketed in popularity. Even so, racing still makes up more than 25 per cent of the spread firms’ turnover, with the daily diet of three or more race meetings attracting regular and sometimes hefty punters.
In many ways, racing is far from being the ideal spread betting medium. No one has yet thought of a way of betting in running and many of the markets are, to say the least, somewhat manufactured. Markets such as the winning distance between two named horses or total winning distances at a meeting have no specific impact on events at the racecourse. If a jockey leading by a long way eases his horse down towards the line it has no effect on the ultimate result—unless of course you have bought winning lengths.
This divergence between a jockey’s responsibilities—in other words to try to ensure his horse runs to the best of its ability and secures the best position it can—and the way some of the spreads are calculated has inevitably led to problems. Jockeys are in theory breaking no rules by not trying to win by the greatest distance they can. Indeed, from a handicap point of view, the closer a race looks to be, the less penalised the winner is in future events.