Thankfully, especially considering the trend that began around at the start of the 2020’s for decreasing field sizes, one-horse races are still rare.
That said, they can still happen occasionally.
We look at what are known as ‘walkovers’, how they are dealt with and how it affects the betting.
When one horse is left in a race, it is known as a walkover. The race will not be voided as long as one horse can take part.
The reasons for a walkover are essentially two-fold. In one case, though unlikely, it could simply be that a combination of low initial entries and non-runners due to going and vet checks have left a field depleted.
The other reason would be due to protest. If trainers and owners are complaining about prize money levels or another such topic, they may conspire to withdraw all horses bar one and allow that one to walk over and collect all the prize money.
In terms of how a walkover is technically completed, the horse in question is not required to walk the entire advertised race distance, it isn’t literal. The horse is regarded as the winner of the race if it is ridden past the judge’s box at the finish line.
So, what will tend to happen is that the horse will be trotted some way up the track by the jockey, turn, then simply trot back down and across the line to make the result official.
Walkovers and Betting
Walkovers are very rare and you would be very unlucky if one ever affected your betting at all.
When a famous walkover happened at Leicester (see below), bookmakers voided all bets and refunded the stakes. This will usually be the case of course, because in a walkover the result of the winner is uncontested, so no odds can me made as the result is set in stone.
If a race was to start with more than one runner, but due to fallers or other non-finishers, is left with only one runner by the end, then that is different.
In this case, the winner will be described as having ‘finished alone’ and bookmakers are duty bound to settle all winning bets on the finisher as normal.
If there is only one finisher in a race, naturally no Forecast dividend can be returned. In this case, all bets featuring a forecast will be settled as win SP bets on the one finishing horse.
One-Horse Finish Examples
In the 1700’s the great Eclipse was the most famous racehorse of all. While his legacy does stand the test of time, evidenced by subsequent bloodlines, the fact is that eight of his 18 ‘wins’ were in fact walkovers.
Of course, this was a very different time. It was a time of match races and a much smaller thoroughbred population overall.
There have been some examples of lone finishers in the modern game too.
Saint Helena, 2011
In a row over prize money levels, it was agreed that all but Harry Dunlop’s Saint Helena would be withdrawn from Leicester’s Class 3 handicap on Saturday, April 16th, 2011.
Though the winner was only slated to receive £3,885 of the total prize money initially, the walkover meant that jockey David Coyle simply trotted the horse over the line and claimed the full £6,000 purse. Naturally no odds were offered on the race.
Another row about prize money ensued in 2019. Trainers decided to boycott a race, with Nick Littmoden standing firm and wishing to run his Greybychoice, stating that he would then donate the prize money to the Injured Jockeys Fund.
Greybychoice was left to canter over the line under rider Eoin Walsh, but it didn’t all end well for Littmoden.
Without running a real race and without the prize money to show for it, Littmoden planned to run the same horse in a race at Wolverhampton a few days later. His ‘win’ in the walkover however gave him a 7lb penalty and made him ineligible for the race in question.