What happens when there is a dead-heat in horse racing?

It’s not common to have a dead-head in horse racing but when they happen there’s a clear procedure for what happens to your bets

dead-heat horse racing

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Imagine you’ve bet on a horse at Ascot to win the last race of the day. It’s charging towards the line and seemingly on for the win, until at the last second a rival horse draws level! They lost cross the post at the same time, and the photo finish cannot split them. What happens to your horse racing bet now?

Dead-heats in horse racing aren’t as common as they once were but they do still happen. Indeed, while very few horse racing betting fans actually consider a dead-heat when making their bets, it’s worth knowing the procedure should your pick be tied at the post.

Paddy Power has a simple solution to what happens to your bet in the event of a dead-heat. Meanwhile, race organisers have to work out themselves what to do with prize money, accolades and the like.

In our latest Demystifying Racing guide, we look at dead-heats and what happens in horse racing betting to stake (and winnings!) once a tie is confirmed.

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What a dead-heat means for horse racing results

A dead-heat in horse racing is when two or more horses cross the line at the same time – and thus no single winner can be named. In the sport itself, a dead-heat will be decided by the race stewards once they have looked back at the race replays and photo finish.

If there is nothing to split the horses then both are declared the winner. The prize pot available is split evenly between the “dead-heaters”, as the BHA call them. If there is a dead heat for second place but the first-placed horses is subsequently disqualified, then the dead-heaters will both be awarded the race win.

Of course, some races feature a cup or trophy for the winning horse’s owners. In an instance where the trophy cannot be divided, the stewards will decide whether the split of prize money should be adjusted to account for whoever doesn’t keep the trophy.

Elle Est Belle and Ishkhara Lady dead heat

Elle Est Belle and Ishkhara Lady record a dead-heat back in 2020

What happens to my bet during a dead-heat?

Of course, racing betting fans won’t see much of the deliberations above. But what happens to winning bets during a dead-heat in horse racing? Well, the answer is pretty straightforward: your stake is divided by the number of dead-heaters, and your payout is recalculated.

For example, you stake £10 on Paddy’s Girl running at Haydock at 10/1. Paddy’s Girl crosses the line at exactly the same time as Lucky Charm, forcing a dead-heat. The result is that you are paid out based on half your stake, at full odds. In this instance, you would return £55 (£5 x £10 + £5 stake).

Usually a dead-heat takes a few minutes to determine, and so punters may have to wait a little while for the bet to settle.

Are dead-heats common in horse racing?

Dead-heats are part of the business but these days horse racing sees very few ties at the line. The reason for this is that camera technology has improved so much that it’s a lot easier to take accurate, split-second photos of the finish.

Back in 2021 two horses tied at Sandown despite one initially being called the winner. The owners of Hurricane Ivor thought they’d secured victory but upon review it emerged Phoenix Star had crossed at exactly the same moment. Elle Est Belle and Ishkhara Lady also crossed together during the Paddy Power Gold Cup day at Cheltenham in 2020.

Over in the US the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Turf went to a dead-heat as Johar and Ireland’s High Chaparral both crossed the line in a time of 2:24.24. The $1m first prize was split between the owners.

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