Rule 4 in Horse Racing

Rule 4Rule 4 is often perceived in a very bad light and is also often thought of as being very difficult to understand. In truth it is quite simple and is also very fair – even if it might not always feel that way.

Rule 4 is simply the means by which a bookmaker adjusts the odds when a competitor (usually Rule 4 applies to horse and dog racing) withdraws when a price has been taken.

Firstly, let us say that Rule 4 does not apply to bets placed at the starting price (SP) and nor does it apply to ante post betting. Rule 4 applies to bets placed after the final declarations for a race have been made, be that on the day of the race or earlier for some big races.

If you have ever backed a non-runner and got your stake back then you should thank Rule 4. Having your stake returned is the positive side of Rule 4 that people often choose to overlook when they are unhappy about getting a reduced payout on a winner.

Rule 4 in Action

Horse Withdrawn Rule 4

Let us assume that there are three horses in a race, a huge favourite, Bob The Great, at 2/7, Sahara Sue at 24/5 and Dawdling Dave at a distant 11/1.

If you place a bet on Sahara Sue at 24/5 but then shortly before the race the favourite is withdrawn, your bet at 24/5 would suddenly offer huge value, given Dawdling Dave probably only hasthree legs and is lame in one of them.

It would be unfair to expect the bookmaker to pay odds of 24/5 on a horse that now has a much better than evens chance of winning.

Of course, how would you feel if you had backed Bob The Great and were told you wouldn’t be getting your stake back?

In order to pay back the stakes on the withdrawn horse the bookies – and the rule is a standard one across the entire betting industry – use Rule 4 to reduce the odds on the remaining horses to ones that now fairly reflect their chances of success.

Rule 4 Deductions

The amount of the Rule 4 deduction depends on the odds of the horse or horses that have been withdrawn in order to fairly and impartially produce new odds. Non-runners at odds of more than 14/1 attract no deduction on the basis that their chances of winning were slim anyway.

This slides down on a scale whereby a non-runner at between 9/1 and 14/1 inclusive means a deduction of 5%, or 5p in the pound, whilst a huge favourite at odds up to 1/9 attracts a whopping 90% deduction. No matter how many non-runners there are the deduction shall not exceed 90% and this does not affect your winning stake, which is returned in full.

table of rule 4 deductions

As said, ante post and SP bets are unaffected, the former because bookies are not obliged to return and the latter as that price will always fairly reflect the confirmed runners and riders. In summary, as with many things in life, forewarned is forearmed and as long as you know the Rule 4 basics you need never be stumped again should your return on a bet be lower than expected.

Rule 4 FAQs

We’ve covered most of the key facts about Rule 4 but, as with many aspects of gambling, there are many different variables and scenarios that can impact the situation. Here we will look at some of the most common questions punters have about more specific Rule 4 issues.

Is Rule 4 the same at all bookies?

BookmakersUpon first being affected by a Rule 4 deduction, some punters may feel that they have been hard done by. They may wish they had made their bet with bookie X instead of Y and believe that the rule is somehow specific to a particular betting site.

This is not the case.

What we term “Rule 4” is, more specifically and officially Rule 4(C) of the Tattersalls Committee Rules on Betting. It is not a rule created by one or more bookmakers but is an industry standard, applied in exactly the same way by all bookies. It is conceivable that from time to time some betting sites may have offers on specific races that alter the way Rule 4 is applied but this is very rare and by and large, it is safe to assume that Rule 4 will be the same wherever you make your bet.

It should also be noted that Rule 4 also has parts A, B and D, but whenever you see or hear Rule 4, it will almost certainly be Rule 4 C being discussed. These same Rules on Betting also cover how and when bets can be cancelled or amended (Rule 2), and the standard places and odds for each way bets according to race type and the number of runners (Rule 3), as well as various other things.

What Happens if Multiple Horses Do Not Run?

Empty Starting Gate at RacecourseWhilst Rule 4s are relatively rare and having one horse withdraw late on from a race can be seen as unfortunate, it is perfectly possible and not entirely uncommon for more than one animal to be a non-runner.

In this scenario, the deductions for both, or all, horses are added together. This total amount will be the value of the Rule 4 deduction for all winning bets on the race.

So, for example, we can see in the table above that if a non-runner was priced at odds of evens to 6/5, there is a 45% (45p in the pound) Rule 4 deduction.

At much longer odds of 8/1 a horse would fall into the 6/1 to 9/1 category and see a 10p reduction.

As such, if two horses priced at 8/1 and 11/10 respectively were late withdrawals, the total Rule 4 would be 55p (10p + 45p).

What is the Maximum Deduction for Rule 4?

Rule 4 DeductionsIf the system of added deductions had no cap you could see a theoretical position where the deduction would equal, or even exceed £1. This improbable scenario would mean that you might end up receiving nothing if your horse won, or even having a paper debt to the bookmaker!

Clearly such a situation wouldn’t make any sense and so for this reason Rule 4(C) very specifically states that “In the case of two or more horses being withdrawn, the total reduction shall not exceed 90 pence in the pound.” 90p is the maximum single reduction too, apportioned when the non-runner was a very short-priced favourite at odds of 1/9.

No matter how many horses withdraw, though, or what combination odds they were priced at, it is written into the terms that punters are to get at least 10p on the pound as a minimum.

Whilst that does not seem like much, it should be remembered that such a scenario would only occur when the entire shape of the race was dramatically altered. Such a big deduction would only happen when one or more very well-fancied horses failed to run and the 90p cap is, of course, better than nothing.

Does Rule 4 Impact the Number of Places Paid in an Each Way Bet?

Horse Racing PlacesThis question is the wrong one to ask really because it is not Rule 4 which would come into play in such a scenario, rather Rule 3, which deals with each way bets. The implementation of a Rule 4 deduction and a change of the each way terms would often go hand in hand, however, as they are both caused by the same thing – the withdrawal of one or more horses from a race.

For example, if a horse becomes a non-runner after you have made an each way bet, the effective odds on your horse will change accordingly. If that non-runner was the eighth horse in the contest and its withdrawal now means there are just seven, that would also have an impact on how each way bets were treated.

Unless stated otherwise by the bookie, Tattersalls rules dictate that a race with eight or more runners will have each way terms of a fifth of the odds for a top-three finish. However, with seven, that becomes a quarter of the odds but now only for two places.

In conclusion, then, whilst Rule 4 and a change to the each way conditions may occur together, it is not Rule 4, but Rule 3 that is responsible for the latter.

How Does Best Odds Guaranteed Work With Rule 4?

Best Odds GuaranteedBest odds guaranteed means that you will be paid at whichever is higher, the odds when you made the bet or the Starting Price (SP), subject to meeting the terms specified by the bookie.

But what happens if the horse you backed wins and is subject to a Rule 4 deduction?

Well, in this scenario all bookies, as far as we are aware, will apply the Rule 4 deduction to the fixed odds when you made the bet and compare this to the SP.

Whichever works out better for you is how the bet will be settled, in much the same way it would have had there been no Rule 4 in the first place.