weighing in

How can punters place bets in good faith yet be zero chance of winning?

It’s happened again in Queensland.

On Monday, those who backed Lord Archer in race 5 at Cairns had their Queen’s Birthday holiday ruined when, after crossing the line first, jockey Wanderson D’Avila returned to the yard and weighed in light.

D’Avila exceeded the half-kilo leeway and the horse was disqualified from the race. Second across the line, $20 pop Flying Fero, was declared the winner.

An inquiry found that trainer Roy Chillemi had mistakenly left off a lead bag when saddling the horse. Chillemi pleaded guilty and was fined $1,000.

I say it’s happened “again” because though a relative rarity, this is the second time in just a matter of weeks that it’s happened in Queensland. At Toowoomba on April 22nd, jockey Beau Appo weighed in light after winning aboard Pieridae, and the horse was subsequently disqualified.

Appo was found to be at fault and suspended for four weeks.

Interestingly, it wasn’t the first time D’Avila has weighed in light either. Back in 2011, he was suspended for one month for weighing in light after riding a winner at the Gold Coast. On that occasion, he successfully sued the manufacturers of a hunger-suppressant spray that caused the weight-loss on the day. Read that story here

The Rule

It falls under Australian Rule of Racing 209:

AR 209 Consequence of a horse carrying less weight than it should

(1) A rider must ensure that his or her horse does not carry less weight than what it is required to carry in a race.
(2) Subject to subrule (3), if a horse carries less weight than what it is required to carry in a race:
(a) it will be disqualified from the race, provided that the Clerk of the Scales must allow the rider of the horse 0.5kg; and
(b) notwithstanding subrules (1) and (2)(a), any person at fault in relation to the failure to carry the correct weight may also be penalised.

Yes, the horse is disqualified.

The problem for all – not least punters – is that a disqualification is very different to what many would consider the logical outcome: the declaration of the horse as a non-runner.

Consequences for all?

A look at the various parties involved in this situation shows out out-of-whack the current “solution” is.

Firstly, there’s the person actually responsible: the jockey who didn’t manage his weight, or the trainer (or whoever saddled up the horse) who didn’t apply the correct weight.

Generally, they’re punished by stewards for their role, depending on who is at fault. Which makes sense.

Yet the horse doesn’t need to be disqualified for that to happen. Why do all other parties have to be punished as well, which is result of disqualification?

The fundamental problem with the current situation is that when a horse races light, it never had any chance whatsoever of winning the race. Not due to any circumstances in running: it was literally ineligible to win the race from before it stepped onto the track.

How can you ask the owners to pay for that? They’re out of pocket for training fees, though these are admittedly difficult to quantify in terms of individual races. But they also have to pay for entry into the race: a race they were never able to win.

And the topic that concerns us most: the punters have paid for it. There’s no wager refund and market deductions for the eventual winners… those who’ve backed the horse simply have to eat it.
How can somebody place a bet in good faith, and have literally zero chance of a favourable outcome? That’s not a bet. The horse could never win the race, yet stewards allow bets to be taken on it, then not refunded when it’s proven afterwards. That’s farcical.

Those who backed the light horses are fuming, and justifiably so. One punter who got in contact with us was both (a) smart and (b) unlucky enough to back both Lord Archer and Pieridae. He’s eaten a loss from two “bets” that were never bets at all, as the horses he backed literally had no chance of winning the races.

He’s out of pocket over $5,000 across the two races and is, understandably, none too happy about it.

Meanwhile, the trainer of Lord Archer was fined $1,000.

On the other side of the ledger, backers of those who crossed the line second obviously benefit. When Pieridae was disqualified, Champion Bets Queensland pro The Professor was on Reef Knot, which crossed the line second. A major stroke of good luck for members that paid out at full odds.

The Solution?

It would appear quite easy. The current method punishes those responsible, but also punishes the innocent – owners and punters. For what reason?

Declaring the horse a non-runner would be far more suitable. If an inquiry finds genuine guilt among the trainer, jockey or anybody else, they can still be penalised to the same extent. Only now, the innocent parties are spared.

Punters don’t win, of course, but they get their stake back. As they should. You can’t call something a genuine wager when the punter has literally zero chance of ever winning.

Yes, it would mean deductions on the other runners, but so be it: it’s only a reflection on what the true market should’ve been anyway, once you’ve removed the horse that couldn’t win.

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