Rule 4 Explained

Rule 4 RulesThere are many different rules in horse racing and you would need to be a genius to fully understand all of them.

Luckily, they aren’t all essential information for the discerning punter, but one rule amongst them certainly is. This is Rule 4, and it’s very important to understand because it has a direct influence on how much your bet may be worth.

It exists to protect the bookies from situations where a punter could bet on every horse in the race and still win money, regardless of who won. Things can change last minute in racing which has a knock-on effect to the odds, so Rule 4 is in place to manage that.

Rule 4: A Working Example

Newmarket RacecourseRule 4 is an industry-standard deduction made on winnings from horse and greyhound races. It comes into operation when an entrant is withdrawn from a race after the final declarations have been made and someone has already taken a price on that race.

For example: It’s the 3.20 at Newmarket and you have decided to put a bet on the favourite at a price of 2-1. That’s because, in your opinion, by the time the race begins it may well be a lower price. There are ten horses in the race, but before it begins one of the horses is pulled out of the running and does not come under starting orders. This means that although you have a set price for your selection, the make-up of the race is now different from when that price was taken.

Let’s say it was the second favourite who was withdrawn which was priced up at 4-1; with your horses’ main competitor out of the way the chances of your selection winning are a lot higher than they would otherwise have been. A new market will be formed to reflect this and that selection of yours may well now be odds on. There you are with a 2-1 bet on the now odds on favourite – but sadly, due to Rule 4, those odds aren’t going to fully determine how much money you’ll receive if it goes on to win the race. This is the reason that Rule 4 exists.

NOTE: If you had backed the withdrawn horse your stake would be refunded, unless you wagered ante-post, in which case your stake would be lost.

How Are The Odds Affected?

As you’ll see, it’s the odds of the entrant that withdraws from the race which are the key here.

Looking at the table below, if the odds of the non-runner are 1/9 or shorter at the time of withdrawal, there will be a deduction from your winnings of 90p in the £ (or other currency). This means that 90% of your winnings are deducted. It’s so high at this end of the table because a race where a favourite is that short a price is likely to see other entrants at high odds. With that short-priced favourite out of the race the odds for the other entrants would be significantly lower. If the 33-1 shot gets withdrawn then there’s little effect, hence no deduction.

The official Tattersalls Rule 4 deductions will be applied by UK bookies are as follows:

Odds of Non-Runner Deduction per £
1/9 or Longer Odds On 90 pence
2/11 to 2/17 85 pence
1/4 to 1/5 80 pence
3/10 to 2/7 75 pence
2/5 to 1/3 70 pence
8/15 to 4/9 65 pence
8/13 to 4/7 60 pence
4/5 to 4/6 55 pence
20/21 to 5/6 50 pence
Evens to 6/5 45 pence
5/4 to 6/4 40 pence
8/5 to 7/4 35 pence
9/5 to 9/4 30 pence
12/5 to 3/1 25 pence
16/5 to 4/1 20 pence
9/2 to 11/2 15 pence
6/1 to 9/1 10 pence
10/1 to 14/1 5 pence
Over 14/1 No Deduction

In our example (3:20 at Newmarket) the deduction would be 15% as the horse withdrawn was priced up at 4-1. Note that the deduction which takes place is only levied on your winnings, not your actual stake. Therefore, if your stake had been £10 then your win would have been £20 on that 2/1 shot if all horses had taken part. With the 15% deduction, the win is reduced to £18.50:

£10 stake + £10 winnings = £20

£10 winnings – 15% = £8.50

£10 stake + adjusted £8.50 winnings = £18.50

NOTE: If there is more than one withdrawal these will both be taken into account, although the deduction will not exceed 90p in the pound under any circumstances.

How Common are Rule 4 Deductions?

Horse Shoe Rule 4They can take place on a surprisingly regular basis. Horses can be withdrawn after the final declaration for all sorts of reasons. For example, if it starts raining then a horse may be withdrawn if the going becomes soft. If expected rain doesn’t happen and the ground is too firm, then again, an entrant may not make it to the start.

Rule 4 can cause some real worries among punters when there’s a horse who is dismounted at the start and has to be inspected by the vet to see if it can still race. Another worrying moment is when a horse is unruly at the start and unwilling to go into the stalls. You may have bet on the 6-4 favourite that you think is going to win anyway, but if that 5-1 entrant is withdrawn you’re looking at a Rule 4 deduction.

A horse may also lose a shoe on the way down to the start or go lame, so there are several scenarios which could realistically see withdrawals occur, leading to Rule 4 coming into play.

Rule 4 & Bookmaker Offers

Salesman Rule 4The Rule 4 deduction for a horse that’s withdrawn at odds of between 10/1 and 14/1 is only 5p in the pound.

However, some bookies have decided not to apply this lower end deduction as a ploy to tempt bettors to use their services over a rival’s.

If you’re betting with certain bookmakers, then they might waive any individual 5p Rule 4 deductions on certain races.

However, if more than one horse in this category is withdrawn, then all the deductions will apply.

So, if two horses that were 14/1 were withdrawn there would be a total deduction of 10p in the pound, but if just one of them was a non-runner then there would be no deduction at all.


It’s always a good idea to take a close look at the results to see if there has been a Rule 4 deduction imposed, especially if you didn’t watch live and come back to a return that is lower than you think it should be. Chances are it’s a Rule 4 situation.

All bookmakers will have a list of rules and it’s a good idea to go through this to see how that particular bookmaker deals with Rule 4 deductions. There may be slight differences.