Whenever a horse is seen running loose the most likely reason is that, rather than having fallen which has its own definition for the form book, the horse has ‘unseated the rider’.
In layman’s terms, the jockey has fallen off the horse but the horse has remained on all four legs.
When looking at the basic form figures, this will come up as U or UR. When a horse finishes, they are given a number from 1-0. 1-9 represents their exact finishing position, while 0 is tenth place or beyond.
As well as U and UR, you may also see F which denotes a faller, P or PU for pulled up and others. We have more info on that below.
‘Unseated Rider’ Defined
When a horse unships or gets rid of its rider, this is defined differently for the form guide to a ‘faller’. In this case, the horse may not fall but owing to a bad jump or a false step, its jockey may well fall off and at this point, the horse is a non-finisher.
The majority of occasions on which a rider is unseated come over the jumps. Jumping hurdles and especially fences can be tough for jockeys when the stride taken isn’t absolutely perfect.
Even then, most jockeys can show their skill by remaining in position, but sometimes the manoeuvre is just too difficult leaving them on the floor and the horse carrying on.
Riders being unseated often leads to loose horses carrying on with the remainder of the field. This can cause trouble in running, with further fallers or inconvenienced horses resulting.
Unseating Before a Race
While during a race the majority of unseated jockeys are from within the National Hunt game, lots of horses unseat before races on the Flat. This can be due to younger, precocious and often ‘colty’ horses being a little too lively.
Under racing’s rules, a jockey can remount their horse after being unseated. They are allowed to take part. Since 2009 however, if a rider is unseated during a race they cannot remount and continue to take part.
More Non-Completion Types in Racing
Horse unseating their riders, shown up as U or UR on the race card, is just one of several descriptions of non-finishers in races. The others to remember are:
- Fell (F) – the most common, especially within jumps racing. Horses can fall during a race and are then non-finishers.
- Brought Down (B or BD) – a faller or another incident can often impede a horse and bring it down. This is different from being a ‘faller’ as it wasn’t the mistake of the horse in question.
- Pulled Up (P or PU) – common in longer races and happening sometimes when a horse has a physical issue such as fatigue or injury, a jockey can bring the horse to a stop which is known as ‘pulling up’.
- Refused (R) – occasionally, a horse will get to an obstacle and simply refuse to jump it. Whether or not the riders stays on board, the horse has refused and its race is over.
- Slipped Up (S) – horses slipping up is uncommon, but happens every season. A bad patch of ground can cause a slip, making this different from simply falling.
- Ran Out (RO or O) – something taken for granted in horse racing is that all runners must follow a defined course. If a horse gets spooked or a rider makes a mistake, a horse may run around an obstacle instead of jumping it or may cross from one track to another. This is called ‘running out’.
Faller Insurance in Horse Racing Betting
Horses unseating their riders is simply bad luck, especially where a punter is concerned.
Though some horses are better jumpers than others and on the Flat we never really expect this to happen, unseating just cannot be predicted at all.
What many punters demand when it comes to betting is a full run for their money. While pulling up perhaps cannot be helped, falling these days does come with some insurance if you find the right bookie.
Unseating falls into that category for betting purposes. Within specials or promo sections on bookmaker websites, you may be offered your money back as a free bet if your horse falls during the race.
At the moment, not all types of non-completion are covered by any kind of insurance. Pulling up and running out won’t be counted, though any way a horse or jockey may hit the floor is likely to count. Falling, unseating and being brought down should be covered by such deals.
Famous Unseats and Near-Misses
The brutal fact of the matter is that a horse unseating its rider in a Class 5 hurdle at Stratford will not make racing news. It will simply be annoying for those who’d backed.
There have however been some famous recent examples of riders falling out the side door and then making headlines. There have also been occasions when the jockey managed to (just) stay on board, but the result was still affected.
Gary Moore’s four-year-old Goshen was approaching Listed class on the Flat and hit the ground running as a young hurdler.
After winning at Fontwell, Sandown and Ascot by an aggregate of 68 lengths, he went into the 2020 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival as the very well backed 5/2 favourite. It was even argued that had he been trained by Willie Mullins, he’d have been odds-on.
Racing keenly in behind the leaders, Goshen looked very well and was cruising up towards the lead approaching the fifth hurdle. He hit the front rounding the bend, came wide into the straight towards the stands side and cleared off from the field.
Goshen was around ten lengths clear and in no danger whatsoever when he made a small error at the very last hurdle, unshipping Jamie Moore who was utterly distraught.
Emily Upjohn, 2022
After winning at Sandown and the taking the Musidora Stakes easily at York, Emily Upjohn was red-hot going into the 2022 Oaks at Epsom.
A 6/4 favourite, millions was wagered on her to land the fillies’ Classic for trainers John & Thady Gosden and jockey Frankie Dettori.
There were no incidents of note going to the start, nor with the filly getting into the stalls. It was when the gates opened however the problems started.
Emily Upjohn stumbled badly as the gate crashed open, almost unseating Frankie Dettori. In this case he managed to stay on board with the filly losing ground, while he kept her at the back going slower than ideal for a few more strides as he looked back and checked on the horse’s wellbeing.
The incident and near-unseating meant she lost many lengths in total and getting to within four or five of an eventual winner would have been very good form. She recovered, went easily through the field and hunted down Tuesday up the Epsom straight.
In the end, she was denied on the line, losing by just a heart-breaking short head.
There was a paradox here for punters. Ultimately, this is a sport and a dramatic one. It was terrific to see Dettori stay on board and we were able to witness an excellent comeback from the filly.
However, the truth of the matter is that for punters with insurance it may have been better had Dettori been unseated, or indeed had the filly not made it out of the stalls as many bookies make such bets void.