BHA to revise procedure for announcing void races after Sandown chaos

The BHA is set to revise the system for announcing void races after a chaotic running of the London National led to confusion in the Sandown betting ring on Saturday.

Punters and bookmakers were forced to wait for the conclusion of a lengthy stewards' inquiry – more than half an hour after the race had finished – for an official announcement that the race had been declared void.

One leading bookmaker described the delay as "ludicrous" and the BHA said it was ready to bring forward the announcement of a voided race before addressing the other elements of the stewards' inquiry.

A BHA spokesman said on Sunday: "An inquiry was immediately announced by the stewards, and then the jockeys involved and the clerk of the course were spoken to before announcing a decision, in line with procedures.

"In future we will take a look at these procedures to separate out the void race part of the inquiry from the other elements in order that we can inform racegoers, broadcasters and the betting public as to the outcome of the race more quickly.”

Officials voided the race due to the veterinary team attending on-track to Houblon Des Obeaux, who suffered a fatal heart attack on the final bend of Sandown's chase course just after the Pond fence.

Seven jockeys were handed ten-day suspensions for continuing to race despite the stop-race yellow flag being waved by the third-last fence. That was the only indication to racegoers that the race had been voided, with commentary of the race continuing as normal. 

Under the rules, all bets were voided, with punters entitled to a refund on their stakes provided they still had their betting tickets, but due to the delay many racegoers had already discarded them.

Paddy Power were one of several firms to pay out as a goodwill gesture, and spokesman Paul Binfield said: “We very much believe the stewards’ inquiry should be conducted after they have determined the race is void.

"As soon as that yellow flag is raised it’s a void race and that should be announced straight away. Otherwise there’s a chance we could have paid out and then have to try to claim that money back.

"On this occasion we paid out on the ‘winner’ after the eventual announcement and it cost us six figures on ‘a race’ that would otherwise have been a winning one."

Coral spokesman Dave Stevens said: "While the incident that led to the race being voided was tragic for connections, it seems ludicrous that it took so long to make an announcement.

"A more immediate decision would certainly help avoid the confusion we saw with settlement of bets on course and off, as many punters will discard losing betting slips straight away as a matter of habit.

“Online refunds of losing bets can be made easily enough, but in shops it’s a less simple process. In no way are we disputing the decision to void the race, just the time it took to make it public."

Betfair spokesman Barry Orr added: "From a betting perspective, the quicker confusion and doubt is removed the better it is for punters, and the industry at large.

"It’s a no-brainer that once the decision to void was confirmed, it should be announced immediately. It would fill that vacuum of uncertainty and let everyone move on from the incident."

Sandown 'Hoover' a threat to punters reclaiming slips 

Punters hoping to claim money back on discarded betting tickets for Saturday's void race at Sandown will have to hope that the track's 'Hoover' did not clean up their wagers.

Online bettors will have had no worries getting their stakes back but, according to a Tote employee at the track on Saturday, a man nicknamed The Hoover searches for discarded slips hoping they contain unclaimed winnings.

Saturday's London National would have been ideal for The Hoover. As it was the last race, many punters would have left the course immediately after the horses passed the finishing line.

The employee said that despite being fully aware of what he is doing they have no choice but to pay The Hoover.    

On-course Tote punters who discarded their tickets can write to Totepool with details of their bets to request a refund – assuming The Hoover did not find their ticket.

Discarded betting tickets that were placed with on-course bookmakers and were not brought to the attention of the betting ring manager on Saturday will be unable to be reclaimed.