Originally written on East Coast Bias  |  Last updated 4/23/12
I was asked today what happens to live betting tickets when a horse bet upon is scratched prior to the race. I assume others have the same question, so I'll answer it here.

When a horse is scratched prior to a race, win, place and show tickets (bets that the horse will win, finish in the top two or finish in the top three, respectively) are refunded. Even after the race, attempting to "cash" those tickets will result in a refund.

Exotic tickets are a little more complicated. Essentially the scratched horse is dropped from the ticket. Sometimes, that makes the ticket dead. If you had a boxed 13-6 exacta ticket, and 13 is scratched, the ticket as a whole is dead and will be refunded. If, however, you had a 13-6-7 boxed exacta ticket, giving you 13-6, 13-7, 6-13, 6-7, 7-13 and 7-6, only the bets involving the scratched horse, again we'll use 13 because of I Want Revenge, would drop. Your ticket would refund the four bets involving 13, and essentially become a 6-7 boxed exacta. If 6-7 or 7-6 hits, you would get the exacta payout PLUS the amount bet on the four bets involving horse 13. For trifectas, the same system is in place.

Some bettors like to do the Daily Double or Pick Six, wherein they pick the winners of two or six consecutive races. The system here is a bit different, since a scratched pick would normally nullify the entire ticket and the bet must be placed prior to the first of the two or six races depending on the bet. At most American tracks, the scratched horse is substituted with the odds-on favorite in the win pool.

I do not know what happens to futures tickets (those purchased weeks in advance of a big race) in the event of a scratch. Basic internet research did not uncover the answer, but I suspect if you are betting futures you probably have taken the time to ask someone at the track in the know.

The term scratch presupposes that the decision is made before the gate opens. Once a race begins, the tickets are live and the result counts, no matter what it is. I have personally witnessed races where the horse throws the jockey just as the gate opens and then goes on to win. Tickets containing that horse are still losers, even though the horse crossed the line first. A winning horse must contain his or her jockey.

Likewise, if a horse is disqualified or downplaced due to its behavior during the race, or, more often, that of the jockey, the tickets are still live because the horse left the gate. If your horse wins, but the track stewards downplace it due to conduct, the artificial order of finish established by the stewards determines the outcome of your bet. It is possible that a horse disqualified and placed fourth due to conduct could make your superfecta ticket, just as it's possible that your horse could cross the line third and be declared the winner due to a disqualification.

Dead heats are not uncommon. Despite the sophisticated nature of finish wire cameras, horses occasionally cross the line at the same time. When this occurs in a win-place (first-second) situation, both horses are deemed to have won and to have finished second. If horses 1 and 2 tie for the win, 1-2 boxed exacta tickets win on both bets, though obviously the payout is reduced because there were two payout scenarios.

If there are any other questions, post them in the comments. Hopefully this will clear everything up.

Glossary:
Live - The wager can still be a winner
Dead - The wager cannot win, but is refundable
Winner - The outcome predicted on the ticket is reality, and the race has been declared official.
Loser - The outcome predicted did not occur, and the race has been declared official.

Please only tear up losers.


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