Cheltenham is one of the biggest events in the horse racing industry’s calendar, but that goes up a notch further if you’re looking specifically from the point of view of bookmakers. The amount of money spent on bets at the Festival is in the region of £500 million, so it’s little wonder that bookies absolutely adore the meeting.
How much, if any, of that money is coming from the jockeys, trainers and owners that are involved in the Festival? What are the rules regarding betting for the people involved in the sport? Do they differ depending on which role a person has? Perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, the answer to the latter question is yes, as we’ll explore in more detail here.
Different Rules For Different People
The first thing to acknowledge is that there are different rules for different people involved in the horse racing industry. In essence, the horse racing authorities judge each case based on how much the person we’re talking about can directly influence the outcome of a race. With a jockey, for example, they are much more directly involved in the physical race than a trainer.
A jockey is responsible for deciding the pace at which a horse can run at, how it approaches a fence, whether the horse they’re riding will interfere with another participant of the event they’re taking part in. It goes without saying that a jockey is arguably the most important person involved in a live race at any given moment.
A trainer, on the other hand, has more to do with a horse’s long-term development. That’s not to say that they have no involvement when it comes to actual races, but they’ll look at things such as when the horse should train and how long they should do so for. It’s not the same direct impact as a jockey can have over a horse’s behaviour during an event.
The least involved of the three of them is the owner. They can have their say on which races a horse should enter and if they wanted to be particularly corrupt then there’s no question they could attempt to tell the jockey what to do, but generally speaking an average owner has little input to how a horse runs in any given event.
Betting Rules For Jockeys
Let’s start by looking at that most influential figure of all, then: the jockey. The rules on wagers are crystal clear as far as they’re concerned, with jockeys banned from betting on any race that is taking place in the industry. If you’re wondering, this is what the British Horseracing Authority’s rulebook has to say on the matter:
‘A Professional Jockey must not lay or back bet on a horse in any race, or instruct another person to do so, or receive proceeds from such a bet’
The wording specifies that that rule is for professional jockeys, but it’s a similar situation for amateur jockeys. They’re specifically prohibited from betting on races in which they’re involved. That means that they’re not allowed to bet if they’re taking part in the race but it’s a different matter if they want to bet on a race that they have nothing to do with.
Incidentally, even a jockey’s agent has rules that dictate whether they’re allowed to bet on a race or not. They’re not allowed to lay a bet on a horse that is being ridden by one of their clients, nor can they ask someone they know to lay a bet on such a horse on their behalf. Obviously the logic behind this is that they can instruct their jockey client to ride the horse in a certain way to their benefit.
Betting Rules For Trainers
What about trainers, then? Is there something in the fact that they could, theoretically at least, train their charges in such a way that they struggle with certain event types? Interestingly, the rules are a bit more lax for trainers than jockeys, in spite of the fact that jockeys have a more vested interest in winning than trainers do as it supplies a greater proportion of their wage.For trainers, the amount of money that they get when one of their horses wins a race isn’t actually that much, with money earned from the actual training far exceeding it. With even the most successful trainers seeing less than a quarter of their horses winning on a yearly basis, you can see just why it doesn’t make sense for them to put too much stock in prize money for an income.The only specific rule around trainers and betting is that they aren’t allowed to lay their own horses. This was a rule that was introduced in 2003 and primarily came about because of the arrival of betting exchanges. These new ways of placing wagers allowed people to bet against a specific horse rather than needing to bet on the one they thought would win.
Betting Rules For Owners
The rules for people who own racehorses are similar to those in place for trainers. They are free to bet on horses that they own, but they are strictly prohibited from laying bets on horses that they own or asking someone else to do so on their behalf. The specific rule that is in place to stop owners from doing this is Rule E 92.2.
The British Horseracing Authority’s rule book is there to stop people from actively wanting a horse that they’re responsible for to lose. It’s also to stop trainers from taking advantage of their own knowledge, such as Darren Mercer attempted to do in 2003. He decided to lay his own horse, knowing full well that it wouldn’t be taking part in the Welsh Grand National.
Is It Snobbery?
Some people believe that the betting rules are a form of snobbery. In days of yore, both the owners and trainers of horses would be members of the landed gentry. Jockeys, on the other hand, were typically of a lower class and were therefore considered to be less trustworthy, less intelligent and more readily in need of the extra money that could be made from betting.
Nowadays it’s far to say that owners generally remain rich and trainers aren’t exactly poor, but jockeys are well paid for what they do. That is to say nothing of the fact that even millionaire footballers have been found placing bets, so gambling isn’t necessarily about winning money for some. The idea that it might be some lingering snobbery from the sport is a compelling one.
That said, the reality is far more likely to be that the British Horseracing Authority simply wants to make sure that those involved in the industry are above reproach. The simply reality is that a jockey can influence a race in numerous ways, so allowing them to bet on one would leave the organisation open to all sorts of accusations.
Insider Information Is Complex
You might assume that anyone involved in horse racing would have the same rules applied to them, but that’s not quite the case. In excess of £1 billion is wagered on horse racing every year. Little wonder, then, that the BHA feels the need to keep a tight rein on as much as it can. The money that the betting industry supplies to horse racing practically keeps the sport afloat, after all.
The worst thing that could possibly happen to horse racing would be bets drying up, which is only likely to happen if the wager-placing public began to suspect some form of fixing or foul play. That’s why the Professional Jockeys Association forbids its members from even having any contact with betting syndicates or associations. They’re only allowed to speak to such people if their contact has been officially registered.
The tag of ‘officially registered’ gives them a little bit of wiggle room in case an owner is also a member of a betting syndicate. Alternatively, it’s possible for a jockey to have commercial agreements with someone with ties to betting. The whole idea of this rule, though, is to stop jockeys from giving any insider information to people that could place bets that would take advantage of such information.
The world on insider information is a complex one, though. Obviously information being given to someone for the expressed purpose of them making money from that info is strictly against the rules. Those involved in the industry that are supplying information to people that they believe may be used for betting purposes then they can face severe consequences.
Such is the nature of the seriousness that the BHA takes insider information, jockeys aren’t even allowed to speak to owners about the horses of other owners that they may work for unless they’ve been given permission. They can’t have anything to do with tipping services and on the days of races they can neither send nor read text messages or emails.
What about jockeys that speak to newspapers or other media outlets about horses they’re riding? That’s when it becomes a bit confusing. It’s entirely legitimate for them do so, especially if what they’re saying reflects their status in the industry. Equally it’s ok for a jockey to speak to people at corporate events on the racecourse or to groups who are touring stables.
It’s something of a blurred line, with the PJA saying that it would only become an issue for a jockey to have a ‘casual conversation’ about the horse they’re riding if they did so with someone who planned to use the information that they glean for ‘corrupt betting purposes’. ‘Careless talk’ and ‘casual chat’ can get jockeys ‘into trouble’, though the specifics of what either of those are aren’t outlined.
Other Roles In The Industry
The main purpose of the British Horseracing Authority’s rules on betting for those involved in the industry are to stop corruption. People involved in horse racing can call RaceStraight, which is an anonymous tips line, if they think that anyone is behaving in a nefarious manner in the sport. Equally there’s an integrity team whose job is to make sure any information is dealt with efficiently.
Part of this desire to weed out corruption in racing means that pretty much anyone involved in the sport has to obey similar rules to owners and trainers regarding betting. In essence, anyone that has anything to do with a horse, whether they be a jockey’s valet, a driver or a vet, cannot lay bet on that horse, nor can they tell someone else to do so for them.
In fact, for valets the rules are even more stringent. They’re not allowed to place a bet of any sort on a horse that is taking part in a race during a meeting that they’re working at. That’s the same rules as apply to amateur jockeys. It’s all part of the BHA’s rules on integrity in betting practices, which must be obeyed by everyone involved with the sport.
Those that break the rules as they are laid out by the British Horseracing Authority may well find themselves in a situation where they are fined or even banned from having anything to do with racing for a given length of time. Obviously the exact punishment depends on who it is and what, exactly, they’ve done, with punishment decided on by the BHA in most instances. Sometimes it can be referred for legal proceedings, however.