Ashforth's Angles: non-runner nightmares

RaceTech stalls handlers August 2005

RaceTech stalls handlers awaiting the runners

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (  

 By David Ashforth 5.50PM 18 JUL 2016 

NON-RUNNERS drive punters mad. That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Not mad, perhaps, but mildly irritated, a bit like going to buy a chocolate flake and discovering that there aren’t any, just a sticker saying “Sorry. This item is temporarily unavailable.” Sometimes sorry isn’t enough. Life will go on, I suppose.

It’s the same with non-runners. They are temporarily unavailable, for all sorts of reasons. It might be because the absentee has trodden on a flint and is hopping lame or because he’s drawn 13 of 13 at Beverley and 13 is the horse’s unlucky number.

Being badly drawn doesn’t appear on the BHA’s list of acceptable reasons for not running, although it might feature on a trainer’s list. Officially, a non-runner requires either a self-certificate submitted by the trainer specifying a reason, a veterinary certificate or a change in the official going description since declaration time.

So at Beverley on Monday a self-certificate was produced for Moi Aussie, who had been cast in her box. Providing she’s not badly hurt it probably isn’t disastrous as Moi Aussie was drawn 14 of 14.

A self-certificated non-runner cannot run for six days whereas, if a veterinary certificate is produced, the horse can run the next day, and quite often does. Oceanic was a non-runner at Doncaster last Thursday, with a vet’s certificate, but ran at Pontefract the next day. Similarly, Tahira was a non-runner at Market Rasen on Saturday but ran, and was narrowly beaten, at Stratford the day after.

It seems strange that a horse certified as physically unfit to race one day can be declared fit to race 24 hours later but evidently there are legitimate justifications, as when a rash or a limp appears then disappears.

A loophole in the rules

With a 48 hour declaration system on the Flat (and on Sundays over jumps), trainers are able to declare a horse for races on consecutive days and have the opportunity of seeing the strength of the opposition in both races. There is potential for abuse because explaining that “tomorrow’s race looks easier so we’re not running today” is not on the accredited list of reasons for truancy.

Whether the system is abused or not – and the BHA constantly monitors non-runners – it makes them inevitable and not merely because of changing ground conditions. Horses declared to run on successive days sometimes do but trainers are often understandably reluctant to race a horse twice in two days.

Teetotal was declared to run at both Leicester last Thursday and Pontefract on Friday, and did so. So did Gold Hunter, at Epsom on Thursday and Newmarket on Friday. Tectonic ran at Hamilton on both Thursday and Friday, while Cautionary Note appeared at Ripon on Saturday and at Redcar on Sunday.

It is more common for a horse that runs one day to be a non-runner the next. For instance, Charlie’s Approval ran at Catterick on Wednesday but was a self-certicated non-runner at Hamilton on Thursday. Aislabie ran at Hamilton on Thursday but was self-certificated at Pontefract on Friday. It’s not ideal.

Horse Racing News | Racing Post

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