Horseracing Scams

For as long as men have bet on horses there have been those who have tried to marginalise Fate’s role in proceedings, by attempting to ensure beforehand that the ‘correct’ horse wins the race. Over millennia of horse racing, the methods used to ensure that races produced the desired results ranged from inspired to downright daft.

Here are a few of the most common ploys used by horseracing scammers:

The Ring

Using a ringer to win a race is probably the oldest cheating tactic in horseracing.

The Method: In brief, ringing refers to the act of substituting a talented racehorse for a long odds outsider in a race. The idea, generally, is to benefit from the long odds offered on a hopeless outsider by replacing it with a talented racehorse with similar physical features.

The Giveaway: Once a ringer has been entered into a race, those who are in on the scam will tend to place substantial bets on the relevant horse. Most bookmakers have the means of detecting unusual deviations in betting, and will pick up on a large number of bets placed on an unpopular runner. If the racehorse in question then wins the race, an investigation will take place before the relevant bets are paid out.


The usage of performance enhancing substances for racehorses was pioneered and turned into an art by racehorse owners and trainers.

The Method: A trainer or jockey will give a racehorse a dose of performance enhancing drugs prior to a race. Performance enhancing drugs can have a significant effect on the endurance and speed of racehorses, and a single dose can effectively change the result of a race. Prior to the invention of performance enhancing drugs, it was not unusual for conspirators to poison race favourites in order to give their entries a chance to win a major race.

The Giveaway: Performance enhancing drugs can easily be detected by using blood tests. As is the case with ringing, an unexpected win by an outsider accompanied with unusual betting patterns is one of the surest signs that doping has taken place. Doped racehorses will often show signs of physical distress after a race, which include bloodshot eyes and laboured breathing. Bizarrely, the use of steroids is still tolerated in countries like the United States.

The Fix

The oldest trick in the book is to ensure the race proceeds according to plan by manipulating the entries in a race, and recruiting jockeys into the scam.

The Method: The fixing of races relies on attempts to influence the result of a race by manipulating which horses run in a race and how they run that race. The easiest way to do this is to pay off jockeys to ensure that their racehorses under-perform, giving the chosen entry an optimum opportunity to win that race.

The Giveaway: Race fixing is one of the most difficult scams to expose. Like match fixing in football, race fixing is hard to detect, as trainers and jockeys can easily keep their dealings with unscrupulous gamblers secret. Incidents of race fixing therefore have to be inferred from a combination of unexpected race results and unusual behaviour by a jockey during the course of the race.

The System

Not all racing scams rely on giving gamblers the edge over the bookmakers by interfering with the way horse races unfold. Internet racing systems instead target gullible punters by promising them lucrative payouts in return for large investments in dubious racing systems.

The Method: Purveyors of betting systems will tend to market themselves either telephonically or via the Internet. These individuals will claim to be in possession of an infallible computerised betting system, guaranteed to generate payouts. The punter will then be convinced to part with a significant sum of money for the use of the software, which will arrive on a CD in the post and prove to be utterly useless.

The Giveaway: Any fraudulent racing system is virtually certain to promise significant financial rewards. There is obviously a contradiction in this, as any person in possession of such a successful system would not need to market the software on the Internet in order to earn an income. Furthermore, thousands of punters using the same system and backing the same horses running in the same races would significantly shorten the odds of the relevant horses and minimise any profits made from the system when these horses won.