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28 June 2010

Uncoupled Entries Approved In New York

In a change that should give handle a significant boost, the New York State Racing and Wagering Board on Wednesday approved a rule that would uncouple same-trainer, different-owner entries in all races at state tracks.

The rule goes into effect on July 14, the date the next state registry is published. That should allow the New York Racing Association to uncouple entries as early as closing weekend of the Belmont meet. Certainly, the rule will be in place when Saratoga opens on July 23. Currently, multiple horses trained by the same trainer but owned by different parties must be coupled and run as one betting interest.

"Chairman John Sabini and board members Dan Hogan and Charles Diamond were eager to get this done," said Joe Mahoney, a spokesman for the racing and wagering board. "They think this will be a definite plus for the racing industry and they are particularly pleased to put this new rule on the books in advance of the Saratoga racing season. Chairman Sabini is very optimistic that this can help NYRA build handle during the upcoming meet."

While NYRA building handle seems like a reasonable pursuit I think it should not be done against the interest of integrity. While uncoupled entries seems like an innocent detail this really has the potential to impact racing's credibility while littering the product with falsely run intramural races. Like oil in the gulf destroying a vast eco-system you only need one ruinous incident -trainers with multiple entries fixing competition-to decimate the last of racing's trustworthiness. Without credibility there is no more racing.

This rule will affect racing in two ways. The positive effect is that the racing secretary's job just got much easier. Hard to fill races like mares going long on the dirt or higher class allowance races can now fill. Suppose three horses want to run in an allowance. No matter how hard the racing secretary tries he can not find three more to fill the race. All they need to do to make the race go is enter an additional horses from the three barns that already entered. It is in these barns interest to enter these horses so the motivation is built in to enter hopeless race filler with uncoupled entries. In the past these horses would have been coupled in the wagering and the race still could not be carded.

The negative effect is that competition will be reduced. Will these additional horses be competitive? No. Are they even trying to win? Maybe, maybe not but the race will run even if all the runners are not trying. The purse money will be distributed when the falsely run race is over. What the public gets is the opportunity to bet on a falsely run race. It is like betting on weighted dice or a stacked deck; some will know who the real competitors are while most will be in the dark.

The zeitgeist is that daily uncoupled entries will decimate competition. Think allowance races with 6 horses from 2 barns- say 3 from Pletcher and 3 from Dutrow. The 2010 Mother Goose will be the prototype for the daily allowance race. Five horse race three of them from the same barn. Do you think that this was a truly run race? Can we expect entry-mates to duel each other? Uncoupled entry racing is not a real race, it becomes a friendly show of teamwork as barn-mates escort each other to the wire at a pleasure-like pace. It is unfortunate that legislation like this passes with no real input or protection from those who play the horses and fund the purses. The result will be half crooked intramural games where conflicts of interest will play a big role in who wins and this will be info that the public does not have.

The worst part about uncoupled entries is that it greatly increases the chance of a racing fixing incident to occur. It will be the same barns providing multiple entries so that a big horse can get an allowance race- or what is worse barns will be able to create betting coups for the large owner-bettor. perhaps a hopeless looking horse could be entered while the same barns has a 1-5 shot in the same race. With multiple interests having conflicts of interests it would not be that hard to sneak that 35-1 shot home ahead of the 1-5 shot. If word gets out that the fix was in this could be a public relations disaster.

Behind the scenes there will be all sorts of gyrations to make these races go - this is stuff that wagering public is not privy to and stuff that further reduces transparency in a wagering game whose prerequisite for survival is the utmost in integrity. This rule is a huge shot against integrity- you can expect two or three races on a card that are not races at all- it may fly over the head of most but this new rule is a major shot against racing integrity in New York.


The_Knight_Sky said...

Talk about gloom and doom. The new rules put racing in New York on similar footing with the rules of other states.

If you really like the current rules with the 1-1a-2-2b-3-3x in the past performances and trying to handicap who is going to stay in and who is going to scratch out, I suggest your hand at three card monte in Times Square.

I wrote about this in Parimutuel Algebra.

While this is a step forward, I really would like to see all horses uncoupled, all the time.
Horses with common ownership will still be coupled.

And that is enormously difficult to enforce properly given that there are owners of one horse who are part owners of another horse in New York.

The bottom line is that the as handicappers and bettors we must be able to discern which horse will do what. Will it be to ensure a quick pace. Will it be to gain conditioning for a future effort, Will it be to run the race as optimally as possible to garner a check. My handicapping just got simpler and it also did for the majority who voted in the corresponding poll. And NYRA will benefit from the revenue they should have been accumulating all these years.

In this day and age of television cameras and extreme scrutiny it simply does not make sense to keep rules made for racing in the 1950's.

Sky High said...

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Anonymous said...

At least the NYRA is getting something right, it's a good step in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

It is just another example of the decline of New York racing...Lousy state bred maiden claimers...7500 claimers at Belmont...Penn national horses winning at Belmont...one lousy card after another...I want to stay loyal...but it is getting to be very hard...please let Saratoga be better then the garbage we have been fed from Belmont this meet