Is Horse Racing Fixed?

Many people often wonder if horse racing and other sports are fixed or in some way manipulated. Given that there have been lots of articles, news features and investigations in the media about irregular betting patters, shady Asian betting syndicates pulling the strings behind the scenes and jockeys and trainers doping, accepting bribes and being involved in other unscrupulous activities, it’s easy to think that the whole world of sport and betting is corrupt… but is this really the case?

Certain sports are easier to fix than others, with team sports obviously more difficult to control than those in which individuals compete. Horse racing is essentially an individual sport and whilst it isn’t necessarily easy to fix the winner of a race, in theory it would certainly be very easy to make sure a certain horse DIDN’T win.

With many low key races only worth very small amounts in prize money, and the average “rank and file” jockey only earning a relatively small salary, it’s clear that the temptation must be there. With the advent of betting exchanges, laying bets has become possible, meaning that anyone can effectively act as a bookmaker and accept bets on a horse, essentially meaning that they themselves are betting against the horse winning.

When betting exchanges first became popular, many asked the question, why bother trying to win a race for £5,000 in prize money, when it is easier to guarantee losing and collect a lot more? Of course, the BHA (British Horseracing Association) does everything it can to stop such rogue activity and works alongside the police and the betting exchanges and bookmakers to assess irregular betting patterns and ensure the legitimacy and integrity of the sport.

There have been a number of cases in which people have been caught laying their own horses or horses they are associated with, with a range of punishments including warnings, fines, suspensions and bans, whilst more serious charges were brought against jockey Kieren Fallon, who was charged with “Conspiracy to Defraud” for his role in allegedly fixing almost 100 races. On the whole this type of activity is extremely rare and so we feel safe to say that generally speaking horse racing certainly isn’t fixed.

Of course, there is more to fixing than plain and simple cheating and whilst out and out skulduggery is thankfully uncommon, it cannot be argued that those closest to the sport don’t have a huge advantage over the average punter when it comes to information. Naturally those closest to a horse, jockey or trainer know most about it and when it is likely to run well or not. In certain instances there could be times that some would see this advantage as unfair, immoral or even, perhaps, in extreme cases, illegal.

However, ultimately racing is generally clean and fair and in a sport involving so much uncertainty, fixing and controlling races is not as easy as one might think. The key players in the sport, are, after all, animals and the unpredictability that comes with that means that betting on racing will always be, even for those in the know, a gamble – just as it should be.