Racing Advice. Is Horse Racing Fixed?


Posted on 23rd March 2018

Dear Friend,

Here is an interesting piece from Michael's team on whether horse racing is fixed?

Here goes...

Is Horse Racing Fixed?

It would be naïve in the extreme to suggest that the Sport of Kings is purer than the driven snow. Over the last few decades, there have been numerous scandals involving trainers, owners, jockeys, and bookmakers. One of the most notorious instances of alleged race fixing involved six-time Champion Jockey, Kieran Fallon. He was arrested in September 2004 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud Betfair customers. His fellow jockeys, Darren Williams and Fergal Lynch were also charged.

A blacksmith named Steve O’Sullivan and trainer Alan Berry were charged with conspiracy to defraud by entering a lame filly in a race at Carlisle in June 2003. It was alleged that they placed lay bets on the horse to lose. Fallon’s race-fixing charge began on October 8, 2007 at the Old Bailey but on December 7, Fallon and his co-defendants were found Not Guilty due to lack of evidence. While his name was cleared, the whole sordid affair casts a shadow on the image of horse racing. In this piece, I will look at the likelihood of corruption in horse racing while also showing you how to spot the signs, if there are any.

Is Race-Fixing Real?

According to the Financial Times, an estimated £10 billion a year is wagered on horse racing in the UK although the figure is probably even higher. With such an immense amount of money involved, it would be foolish to ignore the possibility of corruption. That said, it is much more difficult to ‘fix’ a race outright in the modern era. A more likely scenario is the exchange of inside information where it becomes known that some owners are trying to win the race while for others, it is nothing more than a ‘run out’.

In theory, online betting exchanges have made race-fixing easier. In the ‘old days’, it was only possible to bet on a horse to win or else you could bet each-way. With exchanges, it is possible to both ‘back’ and ‘lay’ horses which means that you could ‘fix’ a race by laying a horse that you know has no hope of winning. This was the charge levelled at Berry and O’Sullivan although both men were acquitted in 2008.

However, there is also a much clearer trail to people who profit from suspicious betting patterns. In recent years, regulators have cracked down on dubious behaviour in horse racing and proven corruption is incredibly rare. This combination suggests that race-fixing is far less prevalent than conspiracy theorists would want you to believe.

How Could Someone Fix a Race?

With great difficulty! Things are very different today when compared to the past. For example, the remarkable events of the 1844 Derby could never happen today. A horse named Running Rein won the race but gossip in the paddock raised strong suspicions about the horse. It turned out that the winner was a 4-year old called Gladiator in a race for 3-year olds!

At Bath racecourse in 1953, five men were involved in replacing a horse named Francasal with a superior horse called Santa Amoro and backed him at 10/1. The fraudsters made over £1 million in profit and while off-course bookies suspected foul play beforehand, they were unable to contact on-course bookies because the sole phone line to the course had been cut!

The wide world of online betting, plus the enormous coverage that racing gets, means such scams are impossible today. One theory is that there are races with say, 10 horses, but only 3-4 are trying to win. This is technically not racing fixing as a few horses are trying to win but the key is to learn the horses with a chance and discard the ones only there for a runout.

The problem is this: Horses are unpredictable by nature and since race-fixing tends to revolve around one runner, it isn’t difficult for stewards to identify any horse that starts slowly and isn’t being ridden honestly throughout the race. Those who fail to understand the nuances of racing may be suspicious because a jockey held a horse back without realising the reason for it.

Suspicious Betting Patterns

Unless you’re privy to inside information, the best way for a punter to suspect race-fixing is to identify strange betting patterns. For example, if a horse started the day as an odds-on favourite but drifted alarmingly in the betting, and was at significantly longer odds by race time, and the horse in question failed miserably.

In February 2018, the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board (IHRB) investigated two such cases at the Dublin Racing Festival. Melon was 3.6 on the exchange but 90 seconds before the Irish Champion Hurdle, his odds rocketed to 6.2 and he was 5.9 by the start of the race. Melon finished fifth, some 12 lengths behind the winner Supasundae. Yorkhill was the odds-on favourite to win the Dublin Chase but his price on Betfair went out to 3.5 only minutes before the race and he finished sixth, a whopping 80 lengths behind the new favourite Min.

To the untrained eye, this could seem suspicious but it’s possible that someone got inside information and acted on the exchange; a large sum of money on lay bets would cause the price to drift. You can see how much money is wagered in total as well as the amount available to bet on each set of odds.

I hope you found that useful :-)

Information courtesy of the Race Advisor.

Keep a look out for our next informative + money-making email soon!

Kind Regards :-)


The UK Horse Racing Experts