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from our USA correspondent

Horse Racing Rules and Special Procedures

Horse racing is an extremely spectacular and at the same time intricate sport. The multitude of rules and betting options are often cited as the biggest reason why wagering on the horses has seen such a major drop in popularity in recent years.

© Caroline Norris

Colour Vision

Nowadays, most bettors are after instant gratification. Most of the people who wager on sports do so on teams/sports they’re familiar with. They simply can’t be bothered with sitting down and learning something that’s not only unfamiliar, but downright intimidating at times too.

For those who are indeed interested in horse racing though, here’s a brief dissection of some of the ‘off the beaten path’ rules of the sport.

While the majority of the races feature clean runs, every now and then there’s a tussle, clashing horses and some general mayhem. The rules of the sport cover such circumstances too. Whenever there’s such an incident – depending on how serious it is – a Stewards’ Enquiry may be called. There are stewards around the track, who will question the jockeys involved in the incident and decide based on their observations and on the jockey’s statements which the responsible party is.

Objections can also be called. These are a sort of last resort solutions, when one of the runners complains about another runner’s actions. These Objections are usually bad news for all the parties involved, including the bettors. Technical Objections almost always end in disqualification because they’re usually about one of two things: the wrong course being run or the wrong weight being carried.

The problem with Stewards’ Enquiries and Objections is that stewards can actually disqualify jockeys at the end of them and reverse the race results. What this means for the bettor is that he won’t be able to get his hands on his monies until the procedure is finished.

Everyone knows what a favorite (often abbreviated as ‘fav’) is. It’s the horse most likely to win the race. There’s nothing even remotely complicated about favorites, except when there are several of them. Co-favorites represent horses quoted with the same odds that are equally likely to win a race.

It sometimes happens that two or even three horses are so close in value that they do indeed finish in a Dead-Heat, which means that they come in so close to one another officials are unable to tell which of the runners really won. In such cases, it is common practice to have winning wagers cut in half, which basically means that for one half of the money, the horse the player bet on is considered the winner. For the other half, a different horse is the winner. This way, both dead-heat finishers can be paid out as winners.

Another interesting situation arises when a horse is withdrawn from the race. In such cases, all the remaining horses become more likely to win which means the odds on them change too. According to Rule 4, a certain percentage is cut from the player’s winnings if his horse does come through to win. While most bettors decry this rule as unfair, in reality, it offers the punter a small mathematical edge.

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