Betting on horse racing is usually a chance to get in on the action of activities that are somewhat unpredictable. Whilst that obviously becomes more likely when you look at jump racing events, even flat races are sometimes won by horses that you wouldn’t expect to get across the finish line first.
Before you begin your celebrations, however, you might want to know about whether or not there is any chance that they might be disqualified. The good news is that most bookmakers will pay out on the result as it is when the horses cross the line, but that isn’t the case all of the time.
When it comes to the reasons why a horse might be disqualified, there are a wealth of possible reasons. There is, it is important to note, a difference between the actual rules around disqualifications and how bookies approach the issue. It is the rules themselves that we’re interested in here, rather than how bookmakers will treat a disqualified horse, but do bear that in mind if you’ve placed a bet and seen that your horse was disqualified after the race has been run and you believed that you’d won your bet, only to be given that bad news about it.
The Announcement Of A Disqualification
In an instant when a horse has been disqualified from a race, it will usually happen after the race has finished. This means that the bets will have been declared as official and any and all bets placed on the horse paid out on. There are also occasions when a race has finished but the official result has not yet been declared, meaning that bets won’t have been paid out on.
This fact is only really relevant to bookies and bettors, given that a horse disqualification will go down in the record books regardless of whether bookmakers have decided to pay out on it.
If a horse is disqualified then the announcement about it will be made as soon as the decision is taken. If this happens after a bookie has paid out, they aren’t faint to be asking you for the money back as that’s not how it works.
That, of course, works both ways. Ian Brown had an accumulator bet on seven horses running at the Cheltenham Festival one year, seeing six of them come in. If Josies Orders had won, he’d have picked up £700,000. Instead, it came second to Any Currency who was later disqualified after the official results had been confirmed. Brown didn’t win a penny.
Who Makes The Decision?
Investigations into the outcome of a race will be launched if one or more of the jockeys taking part in the event makes a complaint or a Race Steward spots something that seems suspicious. In the Kentucky Derby, run in the United States of America in 2019, Maximum Security had won the event but two jockeys complained about interference.
After an investigation by Race Stewards, it was decided that 65/1 shot Country House should be declared the winner, with Maximum Security relegated to further back in the field. It was the first time that a horse winning the race wasn’t a winner in the history of the Kentucky Derby.
It is not unheard of for Race Stewards to spot something untoward during an event. Sometimes this can be controversial, especially if a Steward’s Enquiry is launched at one location but not another. In 2020, the result of a race at Cheltenham’s New Year’s Day meeting was called into question by Stewards and it resulted in the horse in first place being relegated to second and the one in second being declared the winner.
Meanwhile, at Musselburgh, an almost identical thing happened but the Race Stewards there decided not to investigate so the original result stood.
Why Horses Will Be Disqualified
Now that we know who it is that will investigate a horse’s behaviour in order to decide whether it should be disqualified or not, it is worth having a look at the actual reasons why disqualification might be the result of any inquiry.
There are five main reasons that are worth exploring, with some being a little more obvious than others.
Not Permitted To Ride / Wrong Race
In the day and age of modern races, where mobile phones are everywhere and the vast majority of races are filmed if not streamed live, the likelihood is that this wouldn’t be one of the most obvious reasons why a horse is disqualified because it will be spotted before the race gets underway. That being said, it has happened in the past and horses end up disqualified because of it, entirely appropriately.
In short, it happens when a horse has run in the incorrect race, perhaps because of a mix up by the stable staff sending a horse off to the wrong place.
It is also possible that the horse wasn’t allowed to be ridden for some reason. This could be due to something like the jockey not having the correct licence for the race in question, for example. Although this is more likely to occur with jockeys from foreign countries, the licensing requirements for the likes of amateur jockeys can seem complicated and it isn’t unheard of for a jockey to be confused about the sort of race that they’re allowed to take part in. Not the most common reason for disqualification, but far from unheard of.
Drugs Test Failures
A much more likely reason for a horse to be disqualified is tat they have failed a drugs test after the event’s completion. That is what happened to Any Currency in that accumulator bet that Ian Brown placed, with the horse failing a drugs test after the fact. The investigation didn’t happen until nearly five months after the fact. Horses have samples taken of the likes of their urine and their blood after a race, which obviously can’t be tested immediately.
It is for this reason that it can sometimes take quite a long time for any investigation to be carried out and disqualification confirmed.
Sometimes it can be because a drug that is a banned substance is found to be within the system of the horse, whilst on other occasions it can be a little bit more unfortunate than that. In the case of Any Currency, for example, the horse was found to have traces of Triamcinolone Acetonide in its system. That is actually a drug that horses are allowed to be treated with, but the rules dictate that it needs to have cleared their system before they take part in any racing.
With this in mind, any illegal substance found in a horse will result in disqualification, regardless of the reason why.
Running With A Different Name
Back to the more obscure reasons a horse might be disqualified now, with the unlikely event that a horse has been run in an event under the wrong name being something that Stewards have to look out for. Owners will pick a name for their horse and give that name to the likes of the British Horseracing Authority.
If a horse then runs in a race under a different name, for whatever reason, that will result in it being disqualified from the event that it took part in. Whilst it isn’t all that common, it is relatively easy to understand why it might happen every now and then.
Owners will regularly enter several horses into numerous different races, only deciding at the last minute which one will run where. This is often because of things like how well the horse is training, what the Going is and whether another horse from their stable is more likely to enjoy success in the race. With such things being left as late as possible, it isn’t exactly unheard of for a horse to run in a race with the wrong name attached to it because of a confusion between everyone involved in the transport and stabling of the horse in the first place.
If you are keen to learn about the most likely reason a horse might end up being disqualified from a race then interference is going to be close to the top of the list. Stewards tend to work on one general rule when it comes to deciding on whether interference requires being actioned upon.
That rule is: did the actions of one horse in a race make a difference to the ability of a different horse to end up in the places? If the answer is yes then an investigation about interference will be launched, whilst if the answer is no then the chances are high that nothing will happen.
Speaking of the New Year’s Day races at Musselburgh and Cheltenham earlier, it was felt by the Stewards at Musselburgh that the winning horse was too far clear of the horse in second place for any material difference to have been made to the outcome of the event.
At Cheltenham, however, the winner only won by a head, meaning that earlier interference was deemed as being crucial to the outcome of the event. It is how much the winning horse won by that made a difference, given the fact that it was felt that the Musselburgh horse would have won even without having interfered.
Before a race, jockeys are weighed out. When a race is over, the jockeys will then be weighed in. If the two weights don’t match up then it will obviously be felt that something isn’t right. This is because horses are supposed to carry a specific weight and if they don’t match up then they won’t have carried the weight that they were supposed to have done. The necessary weight will be added to the saddles that jockeys sit in during races, being handed to assistants to be put on the horse after it’s been weighed. If they wished to, they could remove weight before putting it on.
This, of course, would be cheating. A horse carrying less weight will be quicker than one with more weight, which is precisely why the horse will end up being disqualified if there is any issue with its weight.
It is an illegal act for a jockey, trainer or assistant to mess with weights, which is what will often lead to them facing trouble in addition to the horse being disqualified from the event after the fact. Most trainers, jockeys and stable mates will work hard to ensure that there is no discrepancy between the weights, but sometimes these thing happen regardless.