Ric Chapman interviews Sydney No. 1 Racing Lawman:

Australia's most respected racing administrator, John Schreck, this month begins a comprehensive look at the rules that govern horseracing in Australia. Schreck, the chief stipendiary steward of NSW is known for his fairness and uncompromising attention to detail. So much so, they call him the Sheriff. He joins Ric Chapman to discuss the rules of betting this month.

It is understood, globally, that Aussies love to bet.

Betting in Australia comes in quite a unique form. For example, we bet on football, trots, greyhounds, horses, cards, athletics and golf, just to name a few. Nothing surprising there. But, it is the exotic forms this betting takes that separates Australian gambling from other nations' gambling.

"I'm certain there is a lot of gambling taking place that we aren't privy to, but these are the rules as set out by the AJC, which got their origins from the English system. We have over the years adopted a few of our own to make the Australian way of punting unique," says John Schreck.

Correct Weight or All Clear. This is semaphored after stewards are content with the way the race was run and that the result is fair. But, as Schreck points out the rules are strict and when applied can sometimes mean that what crosses the finish line is not always what is paid on.

"Bets shall go to the backers of the horses placed by the judge, subject to any alteration made before weight is declared. But Stewards can halt the payment and make an order to postpone the settlement of all bets if, in the opinion of the Stewards' committee, further investigation may lead to disqualification. In this case stewards can call off all and any bets on such a race."

This, of course, doesn't happen very often. Even if a horse returns a positive test, or indeed causes the stewards to query further, they rarely hold all bets until a date to be fixed. But, they have the power to do so and I believe last year it happened at the dogs.

What makes a void bet? Obviously the scratching of a horse before starting time but there are many others. A wage becomes void automatically if a bet be made during the running of a race and that race is ordered to be re-run, or the winner is disqualified for carrying less weight, and if the bet is made on a race that is subsequently postponed to another day. Even then, as Schreck says, void bet can occur after the start of a race.

"Take for example, Kaladan in Sydney last month. In the opinion of the Stewards he was prevented from racing properly because he hadn't been placed in the starting stalls correctly. In these cases the bets are returned on that horse and we make orders for settlement of bets mad and consider how much the late withdrawal would make material effect on the odds of the remaining horses."

And that effect results in betting deductions. These deductions are classified as follows:

  1. Win only bets;
  2. Traditional each-way bets;
  3. Place only bets.

The official AJC scale of deductions is:

Win odds
against non-
starter at time
of declaration
in the $
(incl. stake)
for a win
in the $
(incl. stake)
for a place
9/10 50c27c
Scale of deductions for late scratching for place only.

Place odds
Deduction in
$ incl. stake
for 2nd div.
Deduction in
$ incl. stake
for 3rd div.
4/7 8/1330c20c
9/10 25c17c
evens10/9 24c16c
5/46/420c 12c
9/2 59c5c
In the case of quinella betting, all bets are void and monies refunded from 1/50 down to and including 9/10.

5/211/445c, etc.
"It is very timely to have Kaladan as a case study," said Schreck. "He, for example, was heavily supported, I think about 11/8 was bet. That meant we had to deduct 40c in the win value of tickets held for Marchons, who won the race. And that's because if Kaladan hadn't been in the original betting, Marchons' odds would have been less. That is the material difference one horse makes that we've spoken about.

"The scale of deductions is unique in Sydney because it's taken to 100/1. It used to be 16/1. But bookies say 25/1 is 4% of the market and the Stewards agreed and so struck the format in use now," said Schreck.

Schreck adds that "no-one, except in the case of a dead heat, will receive less than his original stake."

A list of these deductions can be found in the on-course race book each and every race meeting. The most common occur from the 2/1 to 10/1 area which is where most horses in the betting are found. The 2/1 hope, for example, would warrant a 30c in the win and 22c in the place deduction, 5/1 would be 17c win, 15c place, and 10/1 8c win and place across the board.

Traditional each-way betting, and bets made just for the place. The rules here are quite clear. "Yes," says Schreck, "they have been in play for a number of years. In the case where there are eight starters or more in a race where a bet is made the odds for a place are one fourth of the Wire, bet. If there are five, six or seven runners, the place pays first and second and that is one third the win bet. Place betting pays all totes in fields of eight or more and first, second when there are five, six or seven runners.

"And," adds Schreck, "if a horse is scratched at the barrier from a field of eight, leaving just seven starters, which has happened recently, the tote still pays for first, second, third, but will probably, depending on the horses' price, have deductions accompanying it.

"In the case of quinella betting where there is a late scratching and that horse is even money or longer, all bets involving this horse are void. Winning combinations are subject to the table you've just seen."

Illegal Bets. Some things you can't bet on, and some of these will shock you. For example no bets shall be made on a horse after a race where:

(a) the judge calls for the camera to assist him with the result;
(b) a protest or objection has been lodged against a placegetter; and no bets shall be made on a horse to beat another horse or horses by any margin.

"I know these things go on," claims Schreck, "but if you see them, report them to the Stewards."

Bookies obligations. Even though they seem to be a dying breed, bookies have rules which they must observe also. "They must lay the odds demanded by the taker on the board but not if the bookie stands to lose $3000 or more on the rails, or $1000 in the Paddock Enclosure on the bet. There shall be no obligation, though, for a bookie to pay a winning bet if a period of one month elapses between bet and claim, or the bet has already been paid to a claimant and there were reasonable. grounds for believing that claim was genuine," said Schreck. But, they've got to pay you when correct weight is given.

As far as percentages are concerned, Schreck has a simple formula to work out the odds. "rake for instance a horse that is 7/4. Add these figures together, and it makes 11. Divide that into 100 and you get 9. Then multiply 9 with the bottom number, which is 4 from the 7/4 and you get 36%."

Now if that is too tough a task here's a list of bookmakers' percentages.

1/3 = 75, 2/5 = 71, 1/2 = 66, 4/7 = 63, 4/6 = 60, 4/5 55, evens = 50, 5/4 = 44, 6/4 = 40, 7/4 36,2/1 = 33,9/4 = 30,5/2 = 28, 3/1 = 25, 7/2 = 22, 4/1 = 20, 5/1 = 16, 6/1 = 14, 7/1 = 12, 8/1 = 11, 9/1 = 10 and so on.

Dead heats. In the event of a dead heat for first place and/or third place, the monies betted must be put together and equally divided. This ' according to' Schreck, is the norm for all dead heats. "Take the case of a quinella," he says. "If one of the horses wins, and the other dead heats for second, the backer is entitled to half the value of the ticket. This applies to all forms of dead heats."

Doubles betting. "I was hoping you wouldn't ask me about these," joked Schreck, hinting at their complexities. Recently in Sydney doubles bookies were allowed back into the betting arena and many punters are still unsure as to what doubles bets entail.

Bets are determined when the first event is lost. "If either is decided in the backer's favour and the other results in a dead heat, the money bet must be put together and equally divided. Now, if both horses dead heat, the money is divided into quarters. One fourth to the backer and three fourths to the bookie," said Schreck.

Doubles bets are void if the horse backed for the first event doesn't come under starters orders, or the horse backed for the second event is withdrawn before the first leg. In the case, though, of a horse winning the first leg and the second leg is withdrawn, then the backer is paid starting price odds for the wager of the first winner. The same principle applies if the first leg wins and the remainder of the races are postponed to another day.

Starting Prices. Bets on a race at Starting Price shall be paid at the odds declared by the club conducting the meeting.

Next month Schreck will look at the intricacies of protests and placement, and general rules of racing.

Click here to read Part 2.

By Ric Chapman