If you’ve ever placed a bet on a horse race, you’ll know all about what it is like to wait to find out the outcome of the event and to see if you’ve backed a winner. Depending on what event it is that you’ve placed your wager on and when you decided to place it, it can be a long and agonising wait.
Ante-post bets are often available on the biggest races, for example, so you can place them almost a year in advance of them happening. Sometimes your bet will end up being a winner, whilst more often than not it will be a losing one.
Sometimes, though, a race is declared void, meaning that you will have your stake returned to you. This is neither here nor there, in the sense that you don’t get any winnings but you also don’t lose your original stake money. There are, according to the British Horseracing Authority, as many as ten reasons why a horse race might end up declared void.
Knowing what they are can help to avoid situations in which you will feel confused as to why your wager didn’t pay out in the way that you expected it to, retaining your stake.
Reasons Why Races Can Be Declared Void
Let us start by looking at the reasons why a race can be declared void, according to the British Horseracing Authority. Rule 66 is the area of the BHA code that deals with this scenario, outlining the reasons why races might end up being declared void as follows:
- All of the horse that ran in the race were given the wrong weights to carry
- The horses involved in the race all ran on the incorrect course
- Unless the race Stewards have exercised their rights under Rule 10.1, a void race will be declared if the horses all started from the wrong place
- A yellow stop flag is waved, in accordance with Rule 48
- No qualified horse covered the horse in accordance with the Race Rules
- None of the horses returned to the start of the race after a recall flag has been waved in accordance with Rule 39
- A false start was called but the recall flag doesn’t get waved, unless the hoses are successfully pulled up in accordance with Rule 40.2
- No horse finishes the race
- Neither the Judge nor an authorised replacement was in the Judge’s Box to fulfil the requirement of Rule 60.2.1 and the Stewards are unable to figure out the result in accordance with Rule 60.2.2
Though that list isn’t quite exhaustive, it does give you a sense of when and why a race might be declared void by the authorities. If a race is indeed made void by the BHA, the bookmakers will follow this ruling and will react to bets placed on it accordingly.
The result of a race being declared void, in the eyes of the British Horseracing Authority at least, is that it never officially took place.
What Happens When A Race Is Declared Void
From the point of view of the authorities, a voided race is one that basically never took place. That means that no official result is recorded and no prize money is given out to the race’s participants.
Though it is obviously a complicated process that they have to go through, it is not a complex one that punters need to worry about. Instead, bettors will be busy wondering what is going to happen to their bet, even though they don’t need to do anything to make it happen if they’ve placed their wager online, rather than in-person.
If a race is declared void then the bets placed on that race are also made void. The good news is that most bookmakers consider this to be the case even if the bet has been placed ante-post. That is to say, normally you would lose an ante-post wager if your horse was a non-runner or something else happened.
In the event of a race being made void, however, even ante-post bets are made void. In such an instance, you will get your stake money returned to you by the bookie, which happens automatically when placed online. If you placed it in-person, you’ll need to contact your bookmaker.
What If You Placed A Free Bet?
The prevalence of promotions and offers means that it isn’t out of the realms of the possible that you placed a wager using a free bet, only to find out that the market that you bet on was made void. What happens next is pretty much up to the bookmaker that you placed your promotional bet with.
There is no set rule that all bookies have to adhere to as far as void bets being placed with free bets is concerned. In most cases, they will simply class it as a lost wager and there won’t be an awful lot that you can do about it.
Some bookmakers might be more generous than that and will give you back your free bet. Others might be kind enough to give you another free bet if you contact them and let them know what has happened. After all, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
In truth, though, generosity isn’t exactly something that bookies are known for. If they don’t have to give you another bite at the cherry of a bet after it has been made void then they’re almost certainly not going to. You never know, though, so it is absolutely worth finding out if it happens to you.
What Happens To Accas With Void Bets
If you have placed an accumulator bet and one leg of it ends up being made void, what happens next might seem complicated. The good news is that it’s actually relatively simple. In the majority of cases, a bookmaker will simply remove the voided leg from the accumulator and the rest of the bet will stand.
In other words, if you placed a seven-fold accumulator, say for all of the races during a meeting, and one of the legs is made void, it will become a six-fold acca instead and will pay out accordingly, should it be a winner.
It will almost certainly result in the payout for your wager being reduced, though how much it is reduced by will be dictated by any number of different factors. Problems can arise if you’ve taken advantage of an offer that suggests that you’ll get insurance if you place an acca with ten or more legs, for example, and it’s the tenth leg that is voided.
Similarly, you will miss out on bonus payouts if you’re required to win a given number of legs and one of them is made void. Obviously not all bookmakers follow these rules, but the truth is that most of them do.
Examples Of Voided Races
Now that we have more of an idea of the fact that races can indeed be declared void and the reasons why that might happen, it is worth having a look at some specific examples of voided races from over the years to help you get your head around it all.
The 1993 Grand National
When you’re talking about horse races that have been made void, there is perhaps no more famous example than the Grand National in 1993. What should have been the 147th iteration of the World Greatest Steeplechase was beset with problems before the horses were even brought under order. As had happened two years earlier, animal rights activists had made their way into Aintree Racecourse, with 15 of them actually getting onto the course near to the first fence. This meant that the showpiece event of the meeting was delayed.
Once they had been removed from the course, the starter brought the horses under order and the race should have been started, only for some of the jockeys to become entangled in the starting tape. As a result, the Starter, Keith Brown, waved his red recall flag, indicating a false start. A second official, Ken Evans, was based around 100 metres along the track and he also waved his flag, causing the runners to turn around rather than take on the first jump. The jockeys lined up ready for another go at getting the famous race underway for the second time.
As with the first attempt, some jockeys got tangled up with the tape, including the fact that it ended up wrapped around the neck of Richard Dunwoody. Brown, who was officiating his final Grand National before retiring, once again waved his flag but it didn’t unfurl correctly, meaning that Evans didn’t see in time and 30 of the 39 riders set off around the track. Thought officials, trainers and even members of the public attempted to indicate that the race wasn’t supposed to be taking place, they failed to gain the attention of the jockeys.
Many believed that it was protestors trying to disrupt the race, choosing to ignore them and carry on with their running. It wasn’t until they reached the final fence of the first circuit, the water jump, that many jockeys realised that there was a problem and pulled up. Even so, 14 horses continued around the course into the second circuit, with 50/1 shot Esha Ness taking the spoils that never were. It was later decided by the Jockey Club that the race should be declared voided, costing the bookmakers around £75 million in bets that they had to refund as a result.
The Race In Killarney
A race in Killarney, Ireland was won by 7/4 Stars Over The Seas, but 20 minutes after it had finished it was declared void. Stars Over The Seas won the race by five lengths over Ancient Sands, leading to many bookmakers, both on the course as well as off it, to pay out on the win. It was decided afterwards, however, that the Henry de Bromhead trained horse had been led into the tapes and benefitted from a head start. Because of this, the stewards decided that it wasn’t a fair start and that voiding it was the right thing to do.
The decision to void the race cost Paddy Power an amount that was said to be ‘well into the six figures’, whilst on-course bookies were also out of pocket because of it. Both Paddy Power and Betfair chose to pay out on bets placed on the winner, whilst refunding all other bets on the race. The starter, Joe Banahan, did not call a false start, believing that it was a ‘split-second thing’ that presented no real advantage. He said, “My job as a starter is try to give everyone a fair chance and that is what I tried to do.”
The rider on the second-place horse said, “It turned out that the Henry de Bromhead horse got an advantage because he was on the blind side and Joe might not have seen him coming forward. It was a split-second decision. There is no winner in a void race and I wish there was another outcome.” That is a feeling that was echoed by Patrick Mullins, who was riding the favourite, who said, “It’s an unfortunate scenario. I have huge sympathy for Joe. He’s a very good starter, one of the best. It happens. We all makes mistakes.”
The Maiden Hurdle That Followed The New Rules
In March of 2021, some recently introduced new rules led to a race at Plumpton being declared void. The two metre maiden hurdle was going as expected, yet jockeys were told to pull up just after beginning the second circuit of the race because of the sad death of Wudyastopasking. A new stop-race procedure had been introduced in January of that year, saying that horses were not allowed to go past a stricken horse if it wasn’t safe for them to do so, with the new rule working ‘really well’ according to the Chief Steward on the day.
Richard Westropp said that the horse had injured himself as he approached one of the hurdles, veering off to the bypassing area to the left of the jump. He said, “There was nowhere for the runners to go on the next circuit and you have to be aware of people attending to the horse – their safety is paramount. The clerk of the course and vet acted quickly and the flags worked well. All the jockeys followed procedure to the letter.” It was a feeling echoed by Jamie Moore, who said that his mount, Dorking Lad, would get another day to win a race.
The event was a clear example of rules working correctly in order to protect those that were moving to look after the horse, as well as its dignity. It was also an example of a race being declared void because no horse was able to finish it. Though the death of Wudyastopasking was unquestionably tragic, things around the horse’s passing worked exactly as they were supposed to. Bettors will obviously have been disappointed not to have won their wagers, but it’s much better that no one else was put in danger.