There are few things more frustrating when betting on horse racing than finding some value in the market only for the horse to be withdrawn by connections.
There’s some sympathy for trainers and owners when the weather changes to the extent that it completely alters the going, and less so when they have entered their horses in multiple races at the same meeting and therefore have to declare them a non-runner in one or more.
But it’s still a headache for punters, who are left wondering what will happen to their single and multiple bets when the horse they have backed is withdrawn.
Even when your picks remain in the field, a non-runner or two declared in the same race can play havoc on your potential payout – later in this article, we’ll take a look at Rule 4 and what it could mean for your bets.
What Is a Non-Runner?
The answer to this question might seem self-explanatory, but a horse isn’t always classed as a non-runner when you think it might be – and this definition ultimately determines what happens to your bets.
Quite simply, a non-runner is a horse that was scheduled to race but doesn’t.
They are withdrawn from the race, and their names stricken from the betting odds. A horse can be declared a non-runner hours before the off, or just a matter of minutes if it experiences difficulties in the parade ring or on the way to the start line.
A horse can only be defined as a non-runner after the final declarations stage. If it is withdrawn prior to this, it is not classed as a non-runner – an important distinction from a betting perspective.
Why are Horses Withdrawn as a Non-Runner?
Often a horse will be declared a non-runner when the conditions change in a way that does not suit it.
For example, a huge deluge of rain on the morning of the race that softens the ground will not suit some horses, and they will be withdrawn by their trainer/owner. Similarly, if the going is changed to heavy, connections might want to protect their horses from potential injuries, or save them for a bigger race in the weeks ahead.
Sometimes a horse will be declared a non-runner even after travelling to the racecourse in question. They may come up lame or simply not travel well, and the decision will be taken to give them the afternoon off.
A horse can also become ‘unqualified’ for a race. For example, if it is entered into two races in the space of a couple of days and wins the first, it can’t then go and compete in a maiden renewal a few days later – it will be declared a non-runner in this instance.
How Does a Non-Runner Affect the Betting?
A horse that is withdrawn from a race prior to the final declarations phase is classed as withdrawn, not a non-runner.
It’s why bets placed on ante post markets are typically settled as a loser when the horse you have backed doesn’t run.
Once the final declarations have been made (usually around 24-48 hours before the off), any horse that is then withdrawn is classed as a non-runner – bets placed on these should be refunded by your bookmaker.
If you have backed a non-runner as part of an accumulator or cover bet, that part of your coupon will be voided – any payout earned on the rest of your wager will be adjusted accordingly.
What Is Rule 4?
Let’s imagine you have backed a horse, and while they race as normal a rival is declared a non-runner and withdrawn.
Now, you might think that’s tough luck for the bookies, because your chances of winning your bet have now increased exponentially. However, the bookmakers are protected in this instance by Rule 4 reductions.
Essentially, Rule 4 dictates that win only and each way bets will be paid at revised (i.e. lower) terms when there’s a non-runner(s) in the field. A calculation is carried out, and a deduction taken from your payout.
This applies to single bets and legs of a multiple, with both facing deductions in the event of Rule 4 being enacted.
Rule 4 is calculated as pence in the pound based upon the non-runner’s odds. So, if a horse priced at between 1/9 and 2/11 is withdrawn, the deduction is 90p in the pound. If an even money (or thereabouts) shout is declared a non-runner, the deduction is 45p in the £1. If a 10/1 (or longer) outsider is withdrawn, the deduction is typically just 5p in the pound.
How Does a Non-Runner Affect Tote Bets Like the Placepot?
The Tote has specific rules about when a horse becomes a non-runner. So, if they are withdrawn in advance of the race coming under starter’s orders, stakes are refundable. If they are withdrawn after starter’s orders are in place, all bets are settled as a loss.
But what about in multi-leg pools like the Placepot? Here, the rules are slightly different.
Unlike in fixed odds betting where your potential winnings are adjusted in the light of a non-runner, in Tote pool bets you will instead be given a new selection if your horse is declared a non-runner.
Your pick will automatically become the SP favourite. If there are joint SP favourites at the exact same price, it’s the horse with the lowest racecard number that will become your selection for that leg of the pool.