Rule 4 Explained

There are many rules in horse racing and you probably need to be a genius to understand all of them. One rule it is really important to understand is Rule 4 because it has a direct influence on how much your bet may be worth.

What is Rule 4?

Rule 4 is an industry-standard deduction made on horse and greyhound races. It comes into operation when an entrant is withdrawn from a race once the final declarations have been made and someone has taken a price on that race.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 and taken the 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 race and does not come under starting orders. This now means you have a set price for your selection but the make-up of the race is now a different one from when that price was taken.

It may be the second favourite who has been withdrawn which was priced up at 4-1, this means the chances of your selection winning are a lot better now.  A new market will be formed 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 those odds aren’t going to fully determine how much money you’ll receive if it goes on to win the race.

How Does Rule 4 Effect the Odds?

Rule 4 exists to deal with this situation and as you’ll see it’s the odds of the entrant that withdraws from the race which is the key here. The official Tattersalls Rule 4 deductions are that which will be applied by UK bookies. It declares that

If the current odds of the non-runner are 1-9 or shorter at the time of withdrawal, there will be a deduction of 90p in the £ (or other currency). This means that 90% of your winnings are deducted. It’s so high 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.

The size of the Rule 4 deduction gradually falls as the price of the withdrawn selection lengthens. If it’s 2-11 to 2-17 the deduction is 85%. With any selection that is odds on at time of withdrawal the minimum deduction will be 45%. A withdrawn selection that was 6/4 sees a 35% deduction and one between 9-4 and 3-1 is 25%. It becomes less prohibitive if the withdrawn entrant is a higher price. 4-1 up to 11-2 is only a 15% deduction, it’s 10% for 11-2 up to and including 9-1 and 5% with selections 9-1 up to and including 14-1. Any withdrawn entrant over 14-1 won’t see any Rule 4 deduction at all. So as you can see it’s the price of the withdrawn entrant that is the key as that indicates the importance of it in terms of being able to win the race. If the 33-1 shot gets withdrawn then there’s little effect, hence no deduction.

In the example given above the deduction would be 15% in the Pound as the horse withdrawn was priced up at 4-1. Note that the deduction which takes place is only levied on the winnings you have, 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 the horses had taken part. With the 15% deduction, the win is reduced to £17.

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 may be unruly at the start and unwilling to go in the stalls. You may be 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.

What if there’s two withdrawals? If there is more than one withdrawal the maximum deduction is 90p in the pound even if it’s two short-priced entrants that are withdrawn.

How common are Rule 4 deductions?

They can take place on a regular basis. Horses can be withdrawn after the final declaration. 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.

Withdrawals can also happen when a horse seriously delays a race because it’s unhappy going into or being in the stalls. This can delay races and it may be that another horse becomes unsettled and more withdrawals take place. A horse may also lose a shoe on the way down to the start or go lame, so there are several ways in which withdrawals can happen leading to rule 4 coming into play.

Rule 4 and Bookmaker Offers

The Rule 4 deduction for a horse that’s withdrawn at the odds of between 10-1 and 14-1 is only 5p in the pound. However, Bet365 have decided not to apply this deduction.

If you’re betting with Ladbrokes or Coral, then they will waive any individual 5p Rule 4 deductions on certain races. If more than one 5p or more deduction, 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 then it’d be nothing 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. That’s especially the case if the return you receive isn’t as much as you thought it should be. All bookmakers will have a list of rules and it’s a good idea to go through this to see just how that particular bookmaker deals with Rule 4 deductions.