In recent days, English trainer Nicky Henderson has come in for criticism for his alleged delay in informing the public of the setback that star chaser Altior had in preparation for the upcoming Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown.
This central issue, and the main source of this criticism, concerns the integrity of the ante-post betting market. For those unfamiliar with horse racing, ante-post markets allow one to bet on a race in the weeks and months prior. Larger prices are offer but these are offset by the greater level of risk. If a horse fails to run, money is not returned. This is not the same as betting on the day of a race, where punters are refunded for non-runners.
The issue of non-runners appears to becoming a matter of debate with some questioning the timing of these. The Turf Club in Ireland produce some excellent data, available online, which sheds light on non-runners in Ireland. The most recent publication covers the 2012-2016 period.
The number of non-runners in Ireland has decreased over the past five years. 2,126 non-runners were reported in 2012 compared to just 1,863 in 2016. This is slightly up on the previous year when 1,607 horses failed to run after being declared.
Some of the drop can be put down a decline in the number of horses in training. However, given a total number of runners over the past 5 years, the percentage of non-runners is relatively stable between 6% and 7%. Ireland it seems does not have a major issue on this front.
The reason for declaring a non-runner is also provided. Almost 40% are down to ground conditions. Lameness is the next more common reason for withdrawal with between 9.8% and 17.4% of horses not running for this reason. Coughing and stone bruises account for around 10% each respectively. The remaining 30% are down to variety of other reasons such as a temperature, being off-feed or injured.
The full document and data can be found here.