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Horses are entered for a race well in advance of the meeting. There are several stages to entering a horse for a meeting. For some prestigious races such as the Derby the first entry stage is several months before the race.
At each stage of the entry process a fee is paid and this fee increases at each stage. The final field is determined by the declarations which are made up to 48 hours ahead of a race. A declared runner pays the maximum fee and will run in a race as long as there are no unforeseen circumstances.
Declared runners can be withdrawn from a race but the trainer must provide a valid reason for the horse not taking part. Minor injury and a change in the going are acceptable reason for withdrawing a horse but for the good of the industry there should not be too many non-runners. In most cases the final field is made up of all the declared runners.
The rules of racing stipulate that fields must be known at least 24 hours before a race. A declared runner must take part except when there is a late injury or an appreciable change in the ground.
Bookmakers don’t like declared runners not taking part because it means they have to change the betting market for a race. If a declared runner is withdrawn and there has been betting on the race returns are subject to Rule 4 Deductions that compensate for a declared runner not taking part.
Jockey changes can affect the market and a declared runner may not get the scheduled jockey which impacts on the chances for the horse and the betting market. Declared runners usually take their place in the field but non-runners are common. Non-runners may affect place terms and the number of declared runners determines the terms.