Non-Runners In Horse Racing: What Are They?

Have you ever placed a bet on a horse race and had less returned to you than expected? Maybe you’ve been told there was a reduction in the price of your bet or were left wondering why your each-way bet didn’t come through. The most likely reason is that your horse became a non-runner. But what exactly does that mean? It’s time to saddle up because, in this article, we’ll look at what non-runners in horse racing are, how non-runners can affect your bets, and how to stay ahead of the game.

What Are Non-Runners In Horse Racing?

Thankfully, this part is pretty simple. Non-runners are horses that were scheduled to participate in a race but are withdrawn before or during the race.

This withdrawal can take place at any time. It can happen in the days leading up to a race or between the Final Declaration and the Off. The Final Declaration is when the racecard is formed and all the horses intending to run in are announced. This usually happens around 48 hours before the race. ‘The Off’ is the name given to the start of a horse race.

What’s The Difference Between A Non-Runner And A Withdrawal?

There isn’t much of a difference, but if you want to be pedantic, it’s due to timing.

Usually, a non-runner is known in advance of a race whereas a withdrawn horse is taken out of the race much later. Although there’s a slight difference in terminology at the time, a withdrawal will ultimately become a non-runner once the race is over. If you want to familiarise yourself with any other horse racing terminology, then you could  take a look at the fully detailed horse racing betting guide we also have on site.

Common Reasons For Horses Becoming Non-Runners

Horses can become non-runners for a number of reasons, such as uncertainty about the ground conditions, injury or illness, or being ineligible to run in certain races due to previous wins. Let’s look at these in a bit more detail:

  • Sometimes a horse will be declared on the race card but with a side note of ‘doubtful’ from its trainer. This could be dependent on the condition of the ground and whether or not it will suit the horse, e.g. heavy rain forecast, or too dry.

  • A horse could be injured in transit and therefore may be declared unfit to run on the day of the race.

  • If a horse bolts just before the Off, there might not be enough time to catch it or get a replacement jockey, if needed.

  • The type and number of races a horse is entered into (as well as its success in the first) can also contribute to it becoming a non-runner. For example, a horse has been entered into two races over a 2-3 day period. If it wins the first and the second is a Maiden race, it will no longer be able to run in the second race. (A horse can only enter Maiden races if it hasn’t previously won a race).

How Non-Runners Affect Different Types Of Bets

A single bet: If your chosen horse is the non-runner then your stake at the bookmaker will be refunded to you and the bet voided.

An accumulator bet: That leg of your accumulator will become void. It will be removed from the multiple and your accumulator odds (the price you got) will be reduced accordingly. Sadly, the expected pay-out, should the other legs of your bet win, will be smaller than you were expecting because you’re accumulating winnings over fewer events. If you need to calculate any potential returns beforehand, the accumulator betting calculator could be the ideal tool.

How Your Bet Will Be Affected If It’s Not Your Horse That’s Withdrawn

Though not always the case, it’s very possible that your bet will be affected by a different horse being withdrawn. I’ll try and see if I can cover why repricing or even changing the odds of your existing bets needs to be done – without going too deeply into the maths!

When a horse is withdrawn from a race, the bookmaker has to re-price his book. Odds and prices are set so that a bookmaker covers 100% of the horse race (plus a bit of commission).

Let’s pretend we have a very generous bookmaker who doesn’t take commission and an eight-runner race where all of the horses are equal. They would all be priced at odds of 8.00 (or 7/1) as they would each have a 1 in 8 chance of winning. That’s the bookmaker’s book balanced – he has the race covered.

However, if one of those horses gets withdrawn, there are only 7 horses left in the race. Presuming they all still have the same equal chance of winning, that chance is now 1 in 7. In this case, the bookie must reduce the odds to 6/1 or 7.00 to keep his book square.

Please note that a reduction in price isn’t as straightforward as the above example because runners aren’t all evenly priced to start with. However, it hopefully explains why a reduction in the odds has to occur.

Rule 4 Reduction

What the bookie actually does is apply a Reduction Factor to avoid doing complex calculations every time. The Reduction Factor (also called a Rule 4 Reduction) is decided based on the price of the withdrawn horse. The purpose of the rule is to ensure fairness and to adjust the odds to reflect the changed circumstances.

Originally, there were a specific set of rules on horse racing that bookmakers had to follow in horse racing. These were known as “Tattersall’s” Rules of Racing” and the particular rule that covered suggested price reduction bands was number 4 on the list. They took the Ronseal approach on that one!

Here’s how it works: Let’s say you place a bet on a horse at certain odds, and then another horse is withdrawn from the race. The odds on the remaining horses will be recalculated to account for the reduced competition. This recalculation is known as a “Rule 4 deduction.”

The amount of the Rule 4 deduction depends on the odds of the withdrawn horse at the time of its withdrawal. The higher the odds, the larger the deduction. This deduction is made from the potential winnings of the bets already placed, rather than the original stake.

The purpose of the Rule 4 reduction is to protect both bookmakers and bettors. It ensures that the odds and payouts are adjusted fairly when unexpected changes occur, such as a horse being withdrawn due to injury or illness. By applying this rule, the remaining horses’ odds accurately reflect the new betting landscape.

But don’t worry about having to work things out for yourself! OddsMonkey Premium members can access our guides for more information and use our handy calculator to recalculate bets.

Could A Non-Runner Affect My Each Way Bets?

Yes. The price on your each-way bet could be subject to the same reduction factor as above. It’s important to note that the exact impact of a non-runner on each-way bets can vary depending on the specific rules and conditions set by the bookmaker or the racecourse. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to check with the relevant bookmaker or refer to their specific terms and conditions to understand how a non-runner will affect your each-way bet in a particular race.

When a non-runner affects an each-way bet in horse racing, it typically results in a change to the terms of the bet. Note: an each-way bet consists of two parts: the “win” part and the “place” part.

The “win” part of an each-way bet is a wager on the chosen horse to finish first in the race. The “place” part of the bet is a wager on the horse to finish within a specified number of places, which can vary depending on the number of runners and the specific race conditions. The odds and potential returns correlating to this type of bet could be determined thanks to an each way calculator as well!

If a non-runner occurs before the race starts, the each-way bet may be subject to a Rule 4 deduction, as covered above. The Rule 4 deduction applies to the potential winnings of the bet, not the original stake, and it is based on the odds of the withdrawn horse at the time of its withdrawal.

In terms of the “place” part of the each-way bet, the number of places paid out may be adjusted if a non-runner occurs. The terms for place payouts are usually determined by the number of runners in the race. If there are fewer runners due to a non-runner, the number of places paid out may be reduced accordingly. For example, if the original terms were to pay out on the first three places but there is a non-runner, the terms might be adjusted to pay out on the first two places only.

That’s a basic introduction to non-runners in horse racing and how a withdrawal might affect your bets. OddsMonkey Premium members can get support on this topic and everything else matched betting-related in our sports betting guides and in our matched betting blog.


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About the author:

James OddsMonkey

James OddsMonkey

James' background in IT support and matched betting knowledge is how he's ended up at OddsMonkey updating offer, answering tickets and generally being super helpful.

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