As you may have already found out on your betting journey, some evets are covered by two broad categories of market: traditional and ante post.
In horse racing, many of the big races have an ante post market that opens as far away as a year in advance, and this then switches to traditional fixed odds once the final declarations are confirmed.
It therefore follows that understanding this final declaration process will help you to bet on the right odds at the right time – rather than unnecessarily risking your bankroll on a horse that, in the end, won’t even run in the race you’ve backed them for.
What are Final Declarations In Racing?
As a racehorse owner, there are a couple of steps you must take to ensure your horse is entered in the race you want them to run.
First, you must apply to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to enter your horse in a specific race. This can be left until a few days ahead of time for lower grade races, but for majors like the Grand National or The Derby entries usually have to be submitted months in advance.
An owner can choose to scratch their horse from a race at any time, and that’s why at some meetings – such as the Cheltenham Festival – they make entries into multiple races, and then decide nearer the time which one they want to focus on based on the going and which other horses have been declared/withdrawn.
As race day draws near, the time comes for owners to make their final declarations – that is, to confirm they want their horse to run in their entered renewal.
They can still technically withdraw their horses, which is then announced as a ‘non-runner’ if the weather turns and changes the going, or if their horse suffers injury or illness.
When Do Final Declarations Happen In Racing?
Although it can differ from one race to the next, for the most part final declarations must be made by 10am at least two days before the race is to be held. This allows the BHA time to complete their administrative processes, such as handicapping and publishing race cards that are fed to bookies and media agencies.
If an ownership team has more than one runner in the field, they will also be asked to declare different coloured silks to differentiate their horses effectively.
For low-key races and meetings, sometimes the final declarations stage is reduced to 24 horses – sometimes, owners and trainers will race a horse just days since its last outing, so delaying the declaration enables them to ensure their charge is fit and in good health. Extending the declaration deadline can, in some cases, help to combat small field sizes.
If at the final declarations stage there are too many horses left in (i.e. the maximum field size is exceeded), it is left to the handicapper to decide who should run to ensure a safe and fair race. At the Grand National, for example, low-rated horses will be withdrawn (known as ‘balloting out’) if they fall below the designated bottom weight. In non-handicaps with too many declared runners, the balloting process is a random draw.
And, of course, many flat racecourses use stalls, so there are only so many of these available to get the race started safely.
Why are Final Declarations In Racing Important?
Once the final declarations stage has passed, the ante-post market for that race (if applicable) will be closed, and the traditional day-of-race odds opened instead.
So the final declarations are important for the betting process, and particularly so in handicap races where the field will be confirmed with their respective weights – allowing punters to make a more informed judgement on where they feel the value lies.
If you place a bet on the ante-post market, e.g. before the final declarations stage, and your selection doesn’t run, your bookmaker may refund your stake as an act of goodwill – however, they are not obliged to.
But if you bet on a horse after the final declarations and then they are withdrawn as a non-runner, you will be refunded.
This opens the door to Rule 4 as well. If you have bet on a horse after the final declarations stage, and then a different runner is withdrawn, you can still win your bet but the payout will be adjusted under Rule 4 – a percentage will be taken by the bookmaker to reflect the re-sized field.