It’s hard to imagine a long-distance runner at the Olympics beginning to celebrate a victory when there’s still a lap to go – but it does happen, as both Hagos Gebrhiwet and Lonah Salpeter, who lost out on medals after putting in their sprint finish a circuit too soon, can testify.
Perhaps even more surprising is that jockeys will set off for home too early in a horse race – easing off their charge despite there still being a circuit to run.
Think only an amateur would fall prey to such an error? Think again. Rachael Blackmore, one of the very best riders on the planet, somehow finished a lap too soon during a handicap race at Kilbeggan – a rick that saw the Irishwoman hit with a five-day suspension.
So why do jockeys finish a lap too early, what happens to the outcome of the race and what happens to your bets?
Understanding the Non-Triers Rule
Although it’s pretty harsh terminology, the general rules set out by the British Horseracing Authority (and its Irish counterpart) include the ‘non-triers’ sanction – which covers many different scenarios in which a horse is not ridden to the best of their ability.
Rule 156 of the BHA code refers to ‘…specific instances which arise as a result of an error of judgement on the part of the rider, e.g. dropping hands thereby losing one of the first four places, or a rider mistaking the race distance or riding a finish a circuit too soon.’
The BHA have a range of punishments to suit each circumstance, with fines right to suspensions available – the length determined by whether it was an honest mistake on the part of the jockey involved or a symptom of possible foul play.
Jockeys That Have Finished a Circuit Too Soon
Blackmore is undoubtedly the most famous jockey to have dropped such a clanger.
Most frustratingly for her and connections of her mount Lady Rita is that she was travelling along very nicely in the lead, and after crossing what she thought was the finishing line Blackmore eased down the horse in front of the grandstand.
Unfortunately, she twigged a little too late that the race was still far from over with a lap still to be contested, and while she kicked Lady Rita back up to full speed it wasn’t enough and the duo ended up finishing in fourth place.
Rachael Blackmore finished fourth aboard Lady Rita earlier at Kilbeggan.
The stewards enquired into whether the jockey rode a finish a circuit too soon, but they were satisfied and no action has been taken pic.twitter.com/h7QDqKHbh1
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) May 12, 2023
Blackmore was hauled in by stewards for questioning after the race and initially escaped without sanction, however a subsequent re-investigation disputed her original assertion that she had simply tried to inject some pace into the race before Lady Rita became ‘lairy’ at the front.
Blackmore instead was found to have breached the Irish Horseracing Regulatory Board’s equivalent of Rule 156 – hence the five-day ban.
She isn’t the only jockey to have made the same mistake. The now well-established rider Sam Twiston-Davies ‘finished’ a race at Perth a lap too early back in 2010, when he was still a novice in the saddle just a few months into his career.
He later admitted that he hadn’t done enough research on the ride after being called up as a late replacement –
“It’s all swings and roundabouts and I’ve learned from my mistakes, so it won’t happen again,” he said at the time.
He was suspended by the BHA for 12 days.
In October 2022, Neil Callan eased off his mount a lap too soon at Kempton Park. He sent his ride Ballet Blanc off for the line a circuit too early, leaving the rest of the field rather bemused as he took the ‘winning post’ in first place – albeit a tad prematurely.
High drama! Neil Callan rode a finish a circuit too early aboard Ballet Blanc in the concluding 2m handicap at Kempton this evening 👀 pic.twitter.com/RaVXp69bX7
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) October 26, 2022
Callan, who was suspended for 12 days, said:
“I watched the replay back [with the stewards] and held my hands up straight away. I’ve contacted Amanda (Perrett, trainer) to tell me the cost of what entry fees were and I will pay it. It’s something I never thought I’d do in my career.”
And, of course, there were the amazing scenes at Tramore back in 2008 when all 14 jockeys in the field finished a lap too early. Six realised what had happened and set off for their second circuit and completed the race, while nine of the riders involved were hit with five-day bans.
What Happens to Bets When a Jockey Finishes a Lap Too Soon?
Unfortunately, all bookmakers settle bets based on the official race result – that means that if you’ve had a flutter on a horse whose jockey has eased off after taking the finishing post a lap too soon, you will not be paid out unless they can rectify their mistake on the final circuit.
However, in this day and age of consolation payouts (usually your stake returned as a free bet) popular on social media, you might just get some recompense for the jockey’s mistake – one bookmaker refunded all losing bets on that infamous race at Tramore, for example.