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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Risk of Uncoupled Entries, The Reactor is Coming

Could you imagine if the controversial race we discussed yesterday involving Auckland Reactor occurred in the United States? To recap what happened, two horses (driven by brothers) trained by Geoff Small were in a race at Addington Raceway against Auckland Reactor. Awesome Armbro, an accomplished FFAller in his own right (he finished second to the Reactor in the same race last year) who is known for his racing off the pace style, raced eye-to-eye against Auckland Reactor the whole race until the final turn providing his stablemate Changeover cover. A funny thing happened just as Changeover tipped off cover; his stablemate whose job was to mug Auckland Reactor, backed up in what could have been a world record time. Mission accomplished; Auckland Reactor understandably tired and finished out of the money. Thanks to the mugging, Monkey King was able to come from last and win the race with Changeover finishing third.

Make no mistake about this. Awesome Armbro was not driven to win; he was raced to defeat Auckland Reactor in a failed attempt to deliver the race for his stablemate Changeover. Granted, Awesome Armbro was a long shot, but those that bet on him were cheated; plain and simple. We will leave it to New Zealand racing officials to take care of those involved in this race. Just to be clear, no one is suggesting Monkey King's connections had any involvement in this team racing.

While I am not aware of any blatant situations like this occurring in North America, thanks to rules allowing uncoupled entries in major stake races, the potential for a similar situation occurring exists. It is one thing if such a mugging happened with a coupled entry; at least the bettor would still have had a live horse if one of the stablemates were sacrificed to bring down a heavy favorite. But with the horses being uncoupled, a bettor can find themselves betting on the sacrificial lamb while another stablemate wins the race.

I understand why horses are uncoupled in stake races. Without allowing the uncoupling of entries, many stake races may have only four or five betting interests. I am not saying we need to eliminate the uncoupling of entries, but racing needs to address the threat of this type of situation occurring before it happens here; perhaps a lifetime ban for any driver(s) involved in this type of action. After all, the best damage control is preventing the problem from occurring in the first place.

Speaking of Auckland Reactor, it has been announced  he will be leaving New Zealand for the United States on January 15 with the intent of making his North American pari-mutuel debut in June.  It will be interesting to see if he will live up to his billing.  While New Zealand and Australian horses race quite capably when they arrive here, they tend not to be as dominating as they were in their homeland.  It will be curious to see if how he performs against our native FFAllers.


Pocket Up said...

Interesting take on the coupling issue. In the recent BC, Tracy Brainard had 5 horses racing in her name and for the same owner, uncoupled, and they finished 1-5. They took down the whole purse. Should they have been coupled since there was 10 horses in the race?

I look forward to seeing the beast from down under race here in the states. It appears he will finish his career here and be a sire somewhere in North America.

Pacingguy said...

I am not saying an uncoupled entry is or is not a good thing. I understand the business reasons but people better realize they are dealing with a potential problem and should be prepared.

In the case of Tracy Brainard in the Breeders Crown or for fact any race with uncoupled entries, it should be made known that the judges will as a matter of routine go over the races with a fine tooth comb to see if there was any teaming; and if there is even the hint of teaming, there will be heck to be paid and the penalty will be severe; we will be talking fines in the ammount of the winners share of the purse and we are talking months if not worse; not days.

Pocket Up said...

Have you heard of any cases where this has happened PG? Surely, there have been cases where this has happened. It seems every year the M has a race or two where 4 or 5 horses are coupled as an entry. Teaming would be very hard to prove I would imagine. Each driver was trying to win the race....end of discussion?

Pacingguy said...

Well, there was the case a few years at the Hambo where a driver/trainer made room for an uncoupled stablemate to improve his position. Granted, it was not a case of trying to bring down another horse in the process but if you are uncoupled you are supposed to race your own race and treat the other horse as if it had no connections.

In the case of Auckland Reactor, it apparently was not hard to figure out what happened, there was no way anyone can sincerely argue that they were trying to win with Awesome Armbro.

We are uncoupling entries with much more frequency these days so the potential for teaming is greater now than it was ever before. This is why racing officials need to be prepared for it to happen here and they need to take whatever steps possible to nip it in the bud.