How many horses are in a race?

To those of you new to the ‘Sport of Kings’, horse racing can seem impenetrable. As you sit down on a Saturday afternoon and see John McCririck waving his arms around doing sign language and speaking in a foreign tongue – it’s totally understandable that you may not have a clue what is going on! So let’s start with an easy question, shall we: ‘how many horses are in a race?’…

How many horses are in a race?

Well, to be honest, there isn’t actually a definite answer to that question. ‘How many horses are in a race?’ comes up a lot, but the size of the field varies depending on a number of factors.

Primarily, every race is put into a category which determines things like the age of a horse, whether it is a flat or jump race and if it’s a handicap race. Following that, officials assess it for safety, and stipulate the maximum number of horses in a race.

Of course, there are so many horse races every day, that the maximum number of runners may not run in each one. Obviously, for popular events like the Grand National, there’ll be sufficient interest. For major races, entries close up to several weeks in advance, but smaller races are just 5 or 6 days beforehand.

Then just a couple of days before the race, comes the ‘declaration’. This is where the participation of the runners if confirmed. This is why horse racing markets only usually go online the morning of the race.

Unfortunately, from here, not all of these runners will definitely take part. Withdrawals from races (or Non-runners) are common, and this obviously affects the number of horses in a race.

It also plays havoc with the betting markets when horses are withdrawn.

This is what ‘Rule 4’ is for. Rule 4 is an industry standard deduction of the price on all runners in the market. The reason for this deduction is to make the betting market fair. If the horse you bet on was 5/1, but the 2/1 favourite pulls out, then your 5/1 horse is now favourite to win the race – and 5/1 is an unfair price!

Yes, that’s a lot of information to take in. I bet you wish you’d never asked ‘how many horses are in a race?’, now!

Each way betting

Each way betting can also be confusing. Plus, it’s affected by the number of horses in a race, too.

An each way bet is a separate bet where you are betting on a particular horse to ‘place’. The field size determines how far down the finishing order the bookmaker will pay out for a place. Typically, handicap races of more than 15 runners pay out on 4 places, horses with 5-7 runners pay 2 places and less than 5 is win only. Bookmakers pay out on 3 places for everything else, and this is the typical number. Sometimes, bookies pay an extra place for bigger races.

There is actually a way to take advantage of these races where the bookmakers pay out on more places than usual. This is done in a few different ways, but typically you’ll need to back every runner with a selection of bookmakers that pay out each way for 5 places, but laying every runner somewhere like Betfair that pays out on 4 runners. This discrepancy can lead to some nice profits – but it’s difficult to work out on your own.

Luckily, OddsMonkey are here to help. We’ve got a great tool called the Extra Place Matcher which makes it a lot easier to do. We also have a number of other horse racing tools that are worth checking out, too.

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About the author:

Jenna OddsMonkey

Jenna OddsMonkey

Word up! Jenna makes sure we say it right with engaging copy and a handful of monkey puns thrown in for good measure.

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