Can a horse race be declared void?
A ‘void’ horse race is one that is, officially, judged not to have taken place; no official result is recorded, no prize money is awarded and all bets are cancelled. Perhaps the most famous void race of all time was 1993 Grand National, later dubbed ‘The Race That Never Was’, in which the majority of the jockeys failed to pull up after a second false start and seven horses completed the four-and-a-half mile race.
Generally speaking, any National Hunt race, over hurdles or fences, can be deemed void if all of the horses fail to finish; since November, 2009, the remounting of horses has been banned by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA), increasing the likelihood of this scenario. A race can also be deemed void if the whole field takes the wrong course or in the event of a serious incident, such a stricken horse lying on the course in a position where it cannot be safely bypassed. In the latter case, ground staff display a yellow ‘stop-race’ flag, which indicates to jockeys that they must stop riding and the race must be declared void.
Historically, a race that started before its advertised time was declared void but, although this is no longer the case, modern horse racing is still subject to all kinds of imponderables which, while hardly run-of-the-mill, can cause a race to be deemed void. Examples include, but are by no means limited to, malfunctioning floodlights or stalls and spectator interference.