Horse Looking Out of StableA common trait is horse racing is where a horse is withdrawn from the race before the start. This is referred to as a non-runner. There are numerous reasons as to why this might occur with many different outcomes with regards to your bet.

It’s important to understand that the market that you have bet on will determine what happens to your bet if your horse is declared a non-runner. This article is designed to help you not only understand why it might happen, but also what happens with your bet.

What is a Non-Runner?

A non-runner is when a horse that has originally been entered into the race is taken out prior to the start of the race. This could be several hours before the race or even minutes before the race on the way down to post.

What’s important to understand here is that non-runners are actually fairly common in horse racing and you will need to be aware of what happens should it take place. Also, different bookmakers might offer different rules on this, so it’s definitely worth noting or contacting your bookmaker to see how they work.

The number of no-runners per race will depend on the type of race and conditions. For example, on average, races on flat turf see a much higher non-runner percentage per race than that of jumps or even flat all-weather. This is because the ground is more important on flat than any of the other two formats. The table below is taken from the British Horse Racing website, showing you the average number of non-runners per race from 2012-2016.

Chart Showing the Number of Horse Racing Non Runners by Race Type

Chart Showing Horse racing Non-Runners as a Percentage of Declarations

Why Might a Horse be a Non-Runner?

Horse Having Leg Bandaged

There are numerous reasons why a horse may be declared as a non-runner in a race, but it’s important that the trainer notifies the race committee as soon as they can in order to allow fans, punters and bookies to react to the changes in the circumstances of the race following that horse’s withdrawal. The BHA are actually trying to drastically reduce the number of non-runners in all races, of which we will talk more about later in the article.

One of the factors that trainers simply can’t anticipate is that of injury, which is one of the more common reasons as to why a horse may be withdrawn. Horses are often quite prone to injuries, especially given the strain they put their bodies under to race. More often than not these injuries are to do with their legs, where they might have muscle strains, breaks and dislocations. In fact, it’s very similar to any athlete when it comes to injuries.

But, the BHA aren’t as tolerant to injuries as they once were. A trainer must be able to provide a certificate from the vet to highlight the horse’s injury in order for it to be withdrawn. In fact, they implement measures such as the horse not be able to race for up to 2 days after the withdrawal just in case it’s been touted for a different race. Again, we will talk more about the BHA’s stance later in the article.

The most common reason for a non-runner is the going. For those that don’t know, the going is just the ground that the horse is about to run on. So, if it’s particularly wet it will be declared as “heavy” and if it’s dry, it will be declared as “good”, with variances in between these.

Going Conditions
Firm Driest
Good to Firm
Good Neutral
Good to Soft
Heavy Wettest

It’s common for horses to run better on particular ground. For example, if you had a horse that had won 4 races on good ground and finished last in 3 other races on soft ground, you’re likely not going to want it to run on soft ground again. A heavy shower or persistent rain could make the ground go from good to soft, therefore you withdraw the horse and then find another race to run.

Essentially, a trainer can pull a horse from a race for any reason they like. It could go lame or it could be that it’s not trained well over the past few days and they decide not to race it. The final decision is with the trainer and they are deemed to be picking the best options for the welfare of the horse.

When Will Horses be Withdrawn?

Horse in a Transporter

A horse can be removed from a race at any point before the start of the race. This could be a week prior to the start or even just a few minutes. It’s not uncommon for horses to either dislodge their riders on the way down to post or fail to go into their stalls for flat races. The trainers will do their best to get them in, but if a horse decides they don’t fancy it, unfortunately there is nothing they can do.

If it’s for a legitimate reason such as injury or unfavoured ground, then you are likely to find out before the start of the meeting. The ground rarely changes enough over a few hours (depending on the forecast) enough to simply not run a horse, so most are pulled late morning where possible.

It’s also worth noting that the trainers realise they have a duty of care for both the horse but also the integrity of the race. The earlier they can declare their non-runners the better for all involved.

What Happens to Your Bet if Your Horse is a Non-Runner?

Horse Racing Non Runners

The key thing to note here is what bet type you have made. The two bet types are that of ante post and non-runner no bet.

Ante post bets are when you are betting in advance of the race. This could be anything from a couple of days to weeks or even months in advance. Whilst ante post odds are often preferable over that of non-runner no bet markets, the problem is that if your selection is a non-runner then your bet will go down as a loss.

The flip side of this is when you bet on markets the day of the race or non-runner no bet markets as they are often refereed to. The rules for this are very different and if your horse is declared a non-runner for whatever reason and at whatever point before the start of the race, then your bet will be refunded, and nothing lost.

What Happens With Accumulators and Multiples?

Horse Racing Betting SlipAn accumulator bets is where you have multiple selections in a single bet slip. For the bet to win you need all your results from that bet slip to win. With horse racing, they are often one of the most lucrative bet types you can get.

But, if your horse is declared a non-runner it’s important to realise how this affects the bet. Well, what will happen is that selection will simply be removed, and the bet will be adjusted to reflect this. So, if you had a 5-fold accumulator, it would remove the non-runner and adjust your bet to a 4-fold accumulator. Let’s run through a quick example to highlight how this might work:

We place a 5-fold accumulator with the following horses and prices:

  1. Horse A – 9/1
  2. Horse B – 4/1
  3. Horse C – 13/2
  4. Horse D – 6/4
  5. Horse E – 11/2

To find our accumulator price we simply multiply all the decimal odds together: 10 x 5 x 7.50 x 2.5 x 6.50 = 6093.75. Let’s say that Horse 3 is declared a non-runner. All we do now is remove horse 3 to get our new 4-fold price: 10 x 5 x 2.50 x 6.50 = 812.50.

The same will occur for each part of multiple bets such as Lucky 15s. Here the four fold will reduce to a three fold, the trebles involved will reduce to doubles and so on.

48-Hour Declarations

48 Hours Graphic

Many race meetings now include 48-hour declarations for their race card. This means that trainers need to declare which horses will be racing in the races 48 hours before the start of that race.

This is something that the BHA have been keen to implement across the board, but it’s been fairly slow on the uptake. One of the latest to include it with their race meetings is that of the Cheltenham Festival, who switched to this set up in 2018.

It’s a much better fit for both punters and bookies as it means they have a really strong idea of which horses will be racing in that specific race. Previously they could only speculate until the day of the race, which didn’t help anyone, apart from the trainers as they could pick and choose their races for each horse.

Many meetings, such as Cheltenham, have also stated that no horse may be declared more than once at the meeting. So, a horse cannot be registered in two races and then simply picked just hours before the start of one of them. Again, this provides more clarity for punters, but it will also drastically reduce the number of non-runners in racing as well, which is a massive positive.

What is a Rule 4 and When Does it Apply

Rule 4 is one of the most commonly used rules within horse racing. It’s been designed to help bookies accommodate withdrawals and non-runners and to allow them to still have some sort of balanced book should a horse withdraw.

The deductions reduce the amount of winnings based on the odds of the withdrawn horse. This is done proportionally as an indication of the increased chance the remaining horses have of winning the race after a horse or horses have been taken out. This then allows a fair reflection in terms of pay for the horses that started the race, rather than the pay out for the price that you took on the proviso that there was a full line up of horses racing.

The amount that will be taken from your winnings is s a set amount and is applied to all races. The table below highlights how much is deducted for every £1 in winnings. On the left it shows the price of the horse that has been removed from the race and on the right, it shows the deductions from your winnings. Your stake will not be affected by the deduction.

Odds Deduction Per £1 Odds Deduction Per £1
1/9 or shorter 90p 1/1 to 6/5 45p
2/11 to 2/17 85p 5/4 to 6/4 40p
1/4 to 1/5 80p 13/8 to 7/4 35p
3/10 to 2/7 75p 15/8 to 9/4 30p
2/5 to 1/3 70p 5/2 to 3/1 25p
8/15 to 4/9 65p 10/3 to 4/1 20p
8/13 to 4/7 60p 9/2 to 11/2 15p
4/5 to 4/6 55p 6/1 to 9/1 10p
20/21 to 5/6 50p 10/1 to 14/1 5p
Odds of 14/1 or greater have no deduction

For example, let’s say you bet on Horse A who is part of a three-horse race with Horse B and Horse C also running. You took odds of 5/1 on that bet with a £1 stake. Horse B, the favourite. at odds of 7/4 withdraws just minutes before the start. So, from the table we simply find where the price of 7/4 would fall and in this case that is 35p for every £1 of winnings. Our winnings now reflect the odds for a Rule 4 adjustment due to the withdrawal of Horse B.

When is a Rule 4 Applied?

It is important to note that a Rule 4 will only occur if you have taken an early price, or will apply to the start price if there hasn’t been time for a new market to be formed before the start of a particular race. The Rule 4s that are reported with results will be those applied to the SP as a new market hasn’t been formed. However, if you have taken an early price and there have been withdrawals after that point, you may well have a Rule 4 deduction specific to the odds offered at that time.

Can Each-Way Bets be Affected by Non-Runners?

They can indeed. The place part of the each-way bet is dependent on the number of runners within the race. The places can vary from each bookie, but are regulated to include the following places paid as a minimum.

Non-Handicap Races

  • 2 – 4 Runners: Win Only (1st place only)
  • 5 – 7 Runners: A 1/4 the odds over 2 places (1st and 2nd place)
  • 8 or more Runners: A 1/5th the odds over 3 places (1st, 2nd and 3rd place)

Handicap Races

  • 2 – 4 Runners: Win Only (1st place only)
  • 5 – 7 Runners: A 1/4 the odds over 2 places (1st and 2nd place)
  • 8 – 11 Runners: A 1/5th the odds over 3 places (1st, 2nd and 3rd place)
  • 12 – 15 Runners: A 1/4 the odds over 3 places (1st, 2nd and 3rd place)
  • 16 or more Runners: A 1/4 the odds over 4 places (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th place)

Let’s say we have an each-way bet in a handicap race with 8 runners in. This would pay out 8 places in total, as we can see from the list above. If a non-runner was to occur in that race, then the number of runners would drop from 8 to 7. The number of places would then be adjusted as well, dropping from 3 places paid to 2 places paid.