Disqualification, Non-Runners and Rule 4

rulesBetting is a funny old game. You can spend hours and hours studying the form of the horse, the layout of all of the different courses and the habits of the jockey, only for your work to amount to nothing when your selection ends up not running. Now in reality, of course, not a single moment of your time will have been wasted as it will be invaluable research for the future, but in that moment you'll probably feeling like tearing your hair out. Yet even ignoring the research you’ve done, all is not lost. There are numerous rules and regulations that rule the roost in horse racing that it's helpful for you to know so you can get your head around what happens when your horse doesn’t run in a race, for whatever reason.

What’s the difference, as far as your bet is concerned, between a horse not running and a horse being disqualified? What is Rule 4 and why does it matter? Are there any other rules that you need to know about? Hopefully we’ll be able to answer those questions for you here so that you’ll feel a lot more confident knowing what happens and what to do when a bet you’ve placed ends up not being completed. This list won't be exhaustive, such is the number of small rules that come into play in certain circumstances, but we’ll do our best to cover all of the main ones as they apply to National Hunt racing in particular. One thing that’s always worth remembering is that rules are applied by bookmakers automatically, so even if we don’t mention one they won’t forget!


disqualifiedThere is nothing more frustrating than seeing your horse disqualified from a race, mainly because no amount of research or good betting practice would have avoided it from taking place. The question is, what happens to your bet when a horse you’ve had a punt on gets disqualified?

The short answer is that you lose your stake.

The long answer is that things are a bit more complicated than that depending on the bookmaker and the reason for disqualification. Some bookies are far more generous than other when it comes to this.  Some promise to payout on the winner of some or all races even if your horse gets disqualified after the end of the run. The offer is usually for Win and Each-Way bets, which is quite generous all things considered, when you can find it.  It is highly likely over something like the Cheltenham Festival to get disqualification insurance on a range of races if you shop around.

There are bookmakers that either offer insurance on particular races or some other form of cover, but on the whole you can expect a bookie to take your cash should your horse get disqualified from a race. You would argue, fairly, that it wasn’t your fault but the bookmakers would say the same thing and they’re the ones with your money in their bank. The only thing you can do is look to see if a horse has been disqualified a number of times, but even that’s not a reflection of what’s to come in the future.

First Past The Post and Official Results

fpppPlenty of bookmakers will offer to pay out in terms of what they call 'First Past The Post'. This means that they will pay your bet out if it’s a winner, even if the official result after the weigh-in is different to the order that the horses crossed the line in real time.

FPTP rules mean that the immediate result will get paid out on as will the official result, which is announced after the weigh-in and any steward’s enquiries have been taken into account. Should a winner be disqualified in the aftermath of the announcement of the official result then it won’t affect your ability to claim your bet as a winner.

There are some exceptions to this. If the horse takes the wrong course, for example, carries the wrong weight or the jockey fails to weigh-in altogether. Also, if a horse is called the winner in error then you won’t get paid on that, either.

A good rule of thumb to work by when it comes to horses and disqualification is that if they’re disqualified before the result is official then you’re unlikely to get paid out, whereas if they’re disqualified after the official result as been announced then you will be. That’s not always the case, as I’ve already explained, but it’s a good way to think about it.


voidWhat happens to your bet when your horse doesn’t run in a race depends entirely on what type of bet it is. If it is an ante-post bet, which is to say one placed well in advance of the race, then your bet will be counted as a losing one and your stake will go to the bookie. That’s the gamble of an ante-post bet - you are given bigger odds the earlier you place your bet, but if the horse doesn’t run you lose whatever you’ve wagered on it.

If you place a standard bet that is not classed as ante-post - so normally after 10am on the day of the race - then your bet will be void if your horse does not run. This means that you get your stake back and it was as if the bet had never been placed.

Things become slightly more complex if your bet was part of a multiple. When that happens your multiple bet will simply shift down by one. If you had a double then it will become a straight single, a treble would become a double and so on. Again, this isn’t something you need to worry about as the bookmaker will sort all of this out for you automatically, but it’s handy to know in order to get your head around any possible winnings.

Some bookies, such as BetVictor, have additional offers to help you out if your horse enters a race but ends up not competing. In the case of BetVictor this is called a Run For Your Money Guarantee and states that you’ll get your stake back if a horse comes under starter’s orders but fails to take part in the race properly. Should your selection fail to come, lose its chances at the stalls, refuse or whip around at the start then their guarantee will kick in. It’s one of the reasons why they’re one of the bookmakers we recommend.

What Is Rule 4?

rules 1There’s an argument that Rule 4 might appear to be one of the most complex rules in racing, though in truth it’s actually quite simple once you get your head around it. The most important thing to know from the get-go is that Rule 4 comes into effect when there is a non-runner in a race. The reason for this is that the odds on any given race are determined by the number of horses running in it. Should the amount of horses taking part in a race change then it goes without saying that the odds should change too.

What makes it all seem complicated is that there isn’t one set value to the adjustment made when Rule 4 comes into affect. By that we mean that it’s not as if the bookmakers say 'we’ll take 50p off each bet', instead taking a different amount out of your winnings depending on the odds of the horse that ended up not running. Here’s a look at how much your winnings will change by depending on the odds of the non-runner:

Non-Runner OddsOdds in DecimalDeduction From Winnings (Pence/£)% Deduction
1/9 or less 1.11 or less 90 90%
2/11 to 2/17 1.12 to 1.19 85 85%
1/4 to 1/5 1.2 to 1.27 80 80%
3/10 to 2/7 1.28 to 1.33 75 75%
2/5 to 1/3 1.34 to 1.44 70 70%
8/15 to 4/9 1.45 to 1.57 65 65%
8/13 to 4/7 1.58 to 1.66 60 60%
4/5 to 4/6 1.67 to 1.83 55 55%
20/21 to 5/6 1.84 to 1.99 50 50%
Evens (1/1) to 6/5 2.0 to 2.24 45 45%
5/4 to 6/4 2.25 to 2.59 40 40%
8/5to 7/4 2.6 to 2.79 35 35%
9/5 to 9/4 2.8 to 3.39 30 30%
12/5 to 3/1 3.4 to 4.19 25 25%
16/5 to 4/1 4.2 to 5.4 20 20%
9/2 to 11/2 5.5 to 6.99 15 15%
6/1 to 9/1 7.0 to 10.99 10 10%
10/1 to 14/1 11.0 to 15.0 5 5%
14/1 or More 15.0+ 0 0%

Generally speaking, all bookmakers stick to the deductions mentioned above and the only time that’s not the case is when it’s actually beneficial to the bettor.

Some sites, don’t bother taking anything from your winnings if the withdrawn horse had odds of 10/1 or higher.  This is often called the 5p rule, as horses over 10/1 and less than 14/1 that are withdrawn cause a 5p/£1 stake deduction to the rest of the field . The general thinking is that if the horse was such an outsider then there’s not much point in taking money from you if they weren’t going to win money anyway.

Different bookmakers may have had different prices for the horse that was withdrawn. As an example, say Ladbrokes had a horse as 5/4 and BetVictor had them at 7/4, what amount would be deducted from your winnings? That depends on who you placed your bet with. Ladbrokes would take away 40p, whilst BetVictor would remove 35p. It really is that simple.

Now if more than one horse is withdrawn from a race then the entire market is simply reformed. The only thing you really need to know in that instance is that no more than 90% can be deducted from your bet, regardless of how many horses are withdrawn.

One other big thing to consider regarding Rule 4 is that a horse being withdrawn from a race may result in a change to the number of places that will be paid out on. Say you’ve placed an Each-Way bet and when you did so the number of places that would have seen you win some money was four, that might drop down to three on the withdrawal of a horse or two.

Other Tattersalls Rule of Racing

Rule 4 is actually not the accurate name of the rule that we’re discussing here, with the correct title for it being Rule 4(c). It is one of twelve rules that come under the over-arching branch of rules for horse racing outlined in the Tattersalls Rule of Racing. The idea behind the Tattersalls Rule of Racing is that any and all rules that affect how bets are treated by bookmakers are written in there, in order to ensure that everything is clear and there can be no debate.

Here’s a quick summary of the other eleven rules as outlined in the Tattersalls Rules of Racing, with some of them shortened for the purposes of keeping this simple:

  • Rule 1: 'Betting' is defined by Section 9 of the 2005 Gambling Act.
  • Rule 2: Bets may only be amended or indeed cancelled if both the licensee and the backer agree.
  • Rule 3: Each-Way bets will be paid out based on the following:
    • Fewer than five runners - all bets to win
    • Five to seven runners - places 1 and 2 paid at 1/4 odds per place
    • Eight or more runners - places 1, 2 and 3 paid at 1/5 odds per place
    • Handicaps with between twelve and fifteen runners: places 1, 2 and 3 paid at 1/4 odds per place
    • Handicaps with sixteen or more runners: places 1, 2, 3 and 4 paid at 1/4 odds per place.
  • Rule 5: Subject to Rule 4, accumulators are not settled until the last race has been run.
  • Rule 6: If a race is re-run or something similar happens, the Starting Price will be the price at the time of the re-run.
  • Rule 7: Bets will be paid officially after the 'Weighed-in' announcement has been made, even if they subsequently change.
  • Rule 8: The result of a Photo Finish race will be official as it stands when the 'Weighed-in' announcement is made.
  • Rule 9: Bets made between the end of a race and the 'Weighed-in' announcement will stand as the result is when the 'Weighed-in' announcement is made, even if there’s then a steward’s enquiry.
  • Rule 10: If there’s a dead heat then the stake placed will be divided.
  • Rule 11: If odds get laid but the neither the horse’s name is mentioned nor a ticket is issued then the bet will be determined by the odds as they were at the time the bet was made.
  • Rule 12: Should something happen that isn’t outlined in these Rules of Racing then a simple majority of the Tattersalls Committee will be enough to decide the outcome.

Hopefully that’s made things a bit clearer for you. We’ve said this multiple times, but that’s only really because it bears repeating - the bookmakers will do all of this for you automatically.

We're not going to say that you’ll never need to chase up a bookie over an incident and so it’s always worth checking on the outcome of an event, but it’s certainly fair to say that it will be done for you 99% of the time.