What Happens To Horse Racing Bets If Your Horse Is Disqualified?

Written By Nicole Russo on May 13, 2022
horse racing betting

Horse racing betting is very popular around the world, but the excitement really ramps up in the U.S. around the Triple Crown, which is a series of 3-year-old horse races consisting of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes.

Millions of people wager on these three horse races. For the most part, things run very smoothly. But what happens in horse racing betting if the horse you bet on is disqualified by horse racing officials? It depends on the type of DQ.

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Reasons For DQ in Horse Racing Betting

While it is uncommon for a horse to be disqualified in a major race, it is not impossible. In fact, we’ve seen two instances of disqualifications in the Kentucky Derby since 2019. Both Maximum Security and Medina Spirit crossed the finish line first and were later disqualified for very different reasons.

Drug Test Failure

For most major races, including Triple Crown races, horses go through extensive drug test screenings. This includes post-race drug tests as well as blood tests and pre-race testing. Every state has different rules and regulations for what can and can’t be in a horse’s system on race day. Some steroids can be administered to horses for various medical uses but must clear the system by race day or a specified time before the race. Even if the medicine is not a performance-enhancing drug, if it is banned and found in the horse’s system, a disqualification will occur. This will strip the horse of any titles and potential prize money.

This is what got Medina Spirit in trouble at the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit won the race but later failed a post-race drug test for betamethasone. The drug is legal in Kentucky but must be out of the horse’s system on race day. The failed drug test shocked the horse racing world. Runner-up Mandaloun was declared the winner and Medina Spirit’s trainer Bob Baffert was given a suspension by Churchill Downs.


Interference occurs when a horse impedes another horse from being able to earn a place in a race in an illegal manner. If the horse is in the lead and is clear, it is entitled to any part of the track. However, if a leading horse or another horse in the race swerves or is ridden to either side and interferes with, impedes, or intimidates a horse or jockey, it is considered a foul. Even if the jockey accidentally loses control of the horse, it can be deemed an illegal move. This is also the case if a jockey strikes another horse or another jockey. It is up to the stewards at the track to determine if a foul has occurred.

This was the case in the 2019 Kentucky Derby when it was decided after the race that undefeated Maximum Security interfered with several horses after changing lanes toward the end of the race. Therefore, runner-up Country House was given the title and the first-place prize money, and Maximum Security was taken out of all of the top-five positions in the official results.

Weight Issues

Different tracks and different races will determine what weights must be carried by the horse. This is why jockeys are weighed both before (weigh-out) and after (weigh-in) the race. If the jockey is lighter than they are supposed to be, the horse will carry a piece of fabric with additional weights in it. The jockey is then weighed again at the end of the race. If there is a big difference between the weigh-out and weigh-in weight, the horse can be disqualified.

What Happens To Your Bet With A Disqualification?

When the horse is disqualified has a major impact on grading bets in horse racing betting. Disqualifications can occur:

  • After the race has finished and the results have been declared official
  • After the race has finished but before the results have been declared official

Almost all legal online sportsbooks and horse racing apps will pay out bets according to the official results.

Therefore, in 2021, those with bets on Medina Spirit to win the Kentucky Derby were paid out because the horse failed the drug test days after the race results were declared official.

This means books will not pay on the horse that is later installed as the winner. Bets on Mandaloun to win the race would have been graded losers and not paid out once the horse won by disqualification.

If we look at the 2019 Kentucky Derby, we have a different story. Although it was clear to those watching that Maximum Security crossed the finish line first, the race stewards reviewed the race footage before declaring an official winner. After 15+ minutes, they decided he had interfered with other horses and declared Country House the official winner of the race.

Maximum Security bets were graded losses and Country House bets were graded as wins.

Photo by Associated Press
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Written by
Nicole Russo

Nicole Russo is the Brand Content Strategist for TheLines.com. Previously, she covered the gambling industries in Tennessee and Indiana as a content editor for PlayTenn.com and PlayIndiana.com. She comes from the world of poker, leading the marketing efforts for online poker in Nevada and New Jersey with the WSOP. Russo also assisted with the marketing efforts for the Caesars Sportsbook launch in 2019.

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