The First Show – What Is It And How To Make Money From The Betting Odds Movements

The “first show” in horse racing is seldom talked about. In fact, having done a quick “google” I could barely find any information about what it is, how it works and what it means for us punters. 

The first show is quite simply, the price available to punters, on course, 10 minutes before the off. 

The reason the first show exists is for the simple reason it helps to create the Starting Price (the SP from now on!). 

How this is done will be looked at further on in this article. 

When betting on-course, bookmakers will make available the prices available for the next race within minutes of the last race finishing. 

As punters place their bets which affect the liability of each bookmaker, the odds change accordingly. 

The “sit-at-home” punter can choose to bet by taking a price or choosing the SP. However, this can be done at any time of the day. By being a little savvier, a punter can wait for the “first show” and decide what would be a better decision. 

Using websites like Oddschecker we can determine when the first show actually comes through. 

This can be a great tool in deciding whether to take a price or allow the bet to stand at SP. 

Around 10 minutes before the off, the odds will change on websites like Oddschecker and this is basically the “first show”.  

From this display of odds, the SPRC will monitor the activity of on-course bookmakers and come the actual “off” of any horse race, this determines what the SP will be. 

This used to be done by an SPRC official walking around the ring and checking what leading bookmakers were offering what prices. 

Times have changed nowadays and it’s all done by a computer but the intention remains the same. 

Collectively, over several bookmakers, a price is determined as to what the SP should be. 



How To Use The “First Show” To Improve Your Betting

This is how it’s done – 

For each horse in a race, the prices on offer by all bookmakers in the sample are ordered into a list from longest to shortest. The list is then divided into two equal halves and the SP is the shortest odds available in the half containing the longest odds. 

The SP or a longer price will have been offered by at least half the bookmakers in the sample. 

It’s complicated, I know! 

Basically, having had 10 minutes of collating their prices, the bookmakers are offering what they deem to be the best prices for each horse in said race. 

There is a disparity in those odds available that I’ll leave any eagle-eyed reader to comment on, in the comments section, below 😉 

So, having collated all of the prices from the on-course bookmakers, we now have a model that equates to our SP model, in the UK. 

This is where we can start to make some clever decisions to our placement of bets dependent on when we’re looking at the market. 

Betting And Trading Opportunities Provided By The ‘First Show'

If we're looking at the time of the first show then we can spend a few minutes assessing where the money is going.

This will become very obvious when we look at websites like Oddschecker. Basically, anything that is all in blue is being backed in and anything that is showing up as pink is drifting in the market.

Dependent on what our selection process is, this is a great way of assessing whether the market fancies our bet or not.

As money comes for certain horses on course, Oddschecker and the prices that are displayed on the board in betting shops is the actual price that is available on-course. As the on-course bookmakers take more money for a horse, they naturally shorten the price of said horse.

The betting shops and online bookies rely on this information to change their prices and keep their “book” as accurate as possible. The beauty of knowing this information is that nowadays, ALL on-course bookmakers will use the exchanges to change their prices. It might be the case that an on-course bookmaker will take a £500 bet in the ring (this means that they've laid the bet) and therefore look to back (what's known as hedging) the bet back, on the exchange. This, naturally, means that the price will shorten up on the exchange and because the bookmaker has taken a large bet on the horse, Oddschecker will show this shortening up and this will be displayed as blue.

Once this bet has been placed and the odds have shortened on “said, horse” the bookie now needs to adjust his margins and increase the price on other runners. This is where we now see pink colours on Oddschecker and the price lengthens on other runners.


Here are some examples of the impact the First Show Betting Odds has on the market:

We can see that this screenshot was taken at 16:46, just 4 minutes before the off. Sir Rodneyredblood is all in blue and is clearly the most bet on horse in this race. Move on 5 minutes later and if we'd followed the money, we'd now see this –

As you can see, Sir Rodneyredblood has continued to shorten up within the first show.

This is a valuable tool within any bettors understanding of the markets and understanding how the first show can impact our bets is paramount to making a long-term profit.

It's also essential to understand this “behaviour” within the markets if we're unfortunate enough to not have the BOG (Best Odds Guaranteed) concession available to us. If you are in this boat and can/choose to only use the exchanges, then getting the best price when liquidity is at its highest on the exchanges, using the first show is the best way to beat the BSP.

Let's look at another example –

We can see that Broughtons Compass is blue all the way across the board. There are other horses that have been bet on, on-course but as he's near the top of the market, we'll assume he's fancied.

Here's how he looked on Betfair at the same time –

During the first show and as a result of the money coming for him, here's how Betfair looked a few moments later –

As you can see, Broughtons Compass has indeed shortened in price during the first show.

So, all in all, the first show is extremely important to getting better prices about our selections. It's also a very handy guide to backing and laying just before the off. As it's all done in the 10 minutes leading up to the race, there's plenty of liquidity for everyone to get involved.

Have a go yourself and over time you'll become an expert at reading the market and getting the best price you can 😉


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  • nick

    That was very useful and interesting,as were many of your previous articles.Regards Nick.

    • Eddie Lloyd

      Hi Nick, Thank you for your comment and I’m glad you’re enjoying the articles. Let us know if there’s any stuff you’d like us to write about in the future 🙂 Cheers, Eddie

  • Thomas.

    Clever minds at work here…!

    • Eddie Lloyd

      Cheers Thomas 🙂


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