When a horse race is set up, trainers can’t just turn up on the day with a horse and ask to race them, it all has to be pre-arranged.
This is why the racecard will be available a few days before the race is due to happen, with those scheduled to run available to bet on in advance, or ante post.
However, things can change, and as well as each horse’s odds going up and down as new information comes to light, an owner or trainer might decide to pull a horse out of a race all together.
Technically a non-runner refers to horses that are removed from a race in plenty of time, while those who bow out with less notice are referred to as having been withdrawn, but a withdrawn horse will be marked as a non runner on a race card so most people use both terms interchangeably, as we will do here.
Why Does a Horse Become a Non Runner?
If a horse is a non-runner, it will show up as N/R on the race card, or sometimes WD which stands for ‘withdrawn’.
There are any number of reasons why a horse might be withdrawn from a race, including things like delays in transportation, but two of the most common are:
- The Weather
Obviously a horse that is injured cannot be expected to race, it would be unfair to the horse and pretty pointless for everyone else. Jockeys can also become injured but usually another would be brought in to race instead of withdrawing the horse.
Unexpected changes in weather can have a big impact on a horse’s chances in the race, so if a team entered a horse expecting the ground to be firm but a sudden downpour makes the going soft then they might withdraw it. Horses are individuals are some are better suited to certain conditions than others.
Other reasons might include a horse who travelled badly or one who is behaving out of character, or even a horse that has become ineligible, due to being entered into a Maiden race before going on to win somewhere else in the meantime, for example.
A horse can become a non-runner right up until the point it enters the stalls. If it refuses to go to the stalls for example, it can be withdrawn as a non-runner.
What Happens to Bets on Non Runners?
In most instances non-runners will result in your bet being voided and your stake returned, however, if the horse has come under starters orders but then refuses to race, your bet will be lost.
The distinction here is important.
If the horse was part of a multiple then often your bet will simply bump down to the next lowest accumulative bet; so a treble would become a double and so on. If it was part of an accumulator the horse will simply be removed from the equation and the bet settled on the remaining horses.
Rule 4 will also come into practice in the eventuality of a non-runner, and this is an industry wide rule so there is no getting around it by using an alternative bookmaker. This is where a certain amount per pound is deducted from any winnings depending on the odds of the horse that has been withdrawn, to reflect the increased odds the remaining horses have of winning thanks to racing against a smaller field.
Rule 4 obviously won’t effect you if the non-runner was your horse because your bet will have been voided, but if another horse in the same race as your horse is a non-runner then rule 4 will have an impact on your potential returns.
This is all assuming your bet was made after the final declaration of course, which usually happens 24-48 hours before the off. However, ante post bets that become non-runners will often be settled as losers. The flip side here is that ante post odds are often better than those available after the final declaration, but that is a discussion for another article.
There are sometimes promotions available that get around this, especially around big events like Cheltenham Festival, but for the most part ante post non-runners are losing bets.