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In a horse race, a horse that is declared to run but is then withdrawn on the day of the race is known as a non-runner. There is a maximum field size which is based on safety requirements and if a horse is a non-runner there is no replacement to maintain a full field.
Bookmakers find non-runners an inconvenience because the betting could change, especially if the absent horse is one of the leading contenders. Stakes are returned if a declared horse does not run.
Horses are entered for a race well in advance of the meeting and there are then declaration stages. The final declaration is 24 or 48 hours before a race. After the final declarations are made the betting becomes day of race betting and not ante post betting. Bets on horses that are withdrawn before the final declaration are not returned.
However, all stakes placed on non-runners after the final declarations are refunded as the horse is deemed a non-runner. Bookmakers offer the concession of non-runner/no bet for ante post betting on specific races such as at the Cheltenham Festival and Grand National.
If a horse is withdrawn near the time of the race and a new market cannot be formed, deductions are made from winnings from the horses that run based on the price of the withdrawn horse.
A non-runner can also affect the place terms for a race. These are dependent on the type of race and number of runners. The number of places that apply for each-way betting may be reduced if one or more horses are withdrawn.
When a high-profile horse is withdrawn and becomes a non-runner, backers of the horse lose out but backers of declared runners benefit because the odds are cut to take into account the absent horse. A non-runner can change the shape and total dynamic of a race and the betting odds change accordingly.