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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bergman Gets It Right - The Coupled Entry Debate Returns

In today's edition of HRU, Jay Bergman has a piece about the fact that George Teague's entries are uncoupled in the Meadowlands Pace.  Now, it needs to be noted that George Teague not only trains these horses, but he also has ownership interest in these horses.  As Bergman states about last week's elimination:

As the field lined up for the first $50,000 Meadowlands Pace elimination race last Saturday I noticed Montrell Teague and Yannick Gingras talking to one another from their mounts Custard The Dragon (Dragon Again) and Wink N Atcha (Dragon Again).  Moments later when the race began it became crystal clear what was on their minds....   

Well this week, the same two horses plus Feel Like A Fool, another stablemate are racing in the Meadowlands Pace final, but this time they race uncoupled.  What is the difference?  The purse is for $1 million dollars and New Jersey mandates horses to be uncoupled whenever purses are $500,000 and over.  It also means if any conversation occurs between the drivers of the entrymates, it will likely happen in the paddock and not on the track.

As well intentioned as such a rule may be to maximize wagering opportunities for these big races, no good can come of it.  I remember one time at the Meadowlands there was three horse entry from one stable with two of them being coupled favorites and one of them being uncoupled at long odds and sure enough, the bomb came in and people were furious figuring the other two helped the longshot win.  Rest assured the people who bet on the coupled entry that night were fuming after that race with thoughts of a three letter word going through their head.
Even worse is this is occuring on Back to the Track night when racing people are encouraged to bring friends back to the track to see live racing and possibly introduce new people to the races.  I can imagine the questions and comments coming from these people?

How can they allow a trainer to have multiple horses in the race not being coupled?

Did you see how that horse helped the other one get a pocket in the race?

And if the longest shot of the uncoupled entry comes in...

The race was fixed to allow that horse to win.

Just what we want as we are trying to encourage people to come back to the track; the possibility of the net result of losing people who would attend the races and newcomers who will never return thinking the game is rigged.

Even experienced horse players as noted in a prior HANA Harness Survey agree horses that have common ownership should be coupled.  If a longshot from stablemates come in but at least have separate ownership you have an argument which can be made why they were uncoupled.  But when the ownership has a common interest, you try to convince a newcomer how things were on the up and up.  We just love to shoot ourselves in the foot.

Miracles of Miracles, The Meadowlands Pace ends up in the DRF.  We would be remiss not to note the Daily Racing Form has actually run a few articles concerning the Meadowlands Pace, complete with past performances for the big race.  I guess when a million dollars is at stake, even the DRF has to cover the race.  We'll know we really made it if they cover See You At Peelers if she continues her incredible winning streak.

The 5-2-3-6 combination for last night's national Pick 4 paid $196.50.  You must be wondering with a payoff that low did I win it or how close I came.  Well, I was a perfect 0-4 on the wager.  Other than the 2nd leg where I picked the #2 for second (but decided to single the leg), I didn't even mention the horses in my top four horses in each leg.

It will be interesting to see how the Meadowlands attendance and handle will be tonight.  Living near the Meadowlands, I saw no promotion of the event other than through Back to the Track.  I wouldn't be upset if the figures come out less than hoped for as this year is just a meet to forget with the NJSEA running on the minimal amount of money.  Next year with the Tioga marketing machine in place, I expect growth in handle and attendance.

On the regulatory front, some good news for Jim Morrill Jr who was suspended last fall by the KHRC.  Morrill has completed all the requirements of the KHRC for his Red Mile Incident and will be eligible to apply for a new license on July 24.  Hopefully we will see him back in the sulky soon.  Cry's Dream who has been suspended for ninety days by the ORC will find no refuge in New Jersey unless they go to court as the NJRC has decided to honor to Ontario suspension due to a prohibited drug violation.  Up at Vernon Downs, a certain trainer is in trouble for getting angry and hitting a horse in the face with a water bucket in the paddock,  A couple of people came forward and the trainer was shown the door and the horse was scratched.  I won't mention the trainer's name until a hearing with the NYSRWB has been held.  I don't care how angry you get; you don't take it out on the horse.

As a reminder, the blog entry below this has tonight's selections for the Meadowlands card.


PTP said...

In a million dollar race, the Teague entries are talking beforehand about cashing a ticket on the longest one?



Pacingguy said...

I wouldn't put words in my mouth. I never suggested that Teague's drivers would worry about cashing a ticket on the longest one. I was referring to a case in a prior race when a long shot of an uncoupled entry came in; people's perceptions may suggest such behavior.

That being said, you don't think any of the drivers would talk about giving a tuck to a horse or that during the race one of them would hang the other out to dry?

Anonymous said...

Of course they would, that's why you handicap the race with it in mind.

If we are trying to capture the "9/11 is an inside job" conspiracy betting market, then yes, couple the Teague horses. If you are trying to run a sport with a good betting board to attract betting money, then don't.


Pacingguy said...

Just to make it clear, Teague's horses were used as an example; this could apply to any stable.

Yes, experienced horseplayers can figure this out and for them it is no problem.

I guess the question is do we worry about attracting new people to the game or not? If we are trying to attract people to the game then it is an issue. If we have given up on attracting new people, then it is not an issue. I guess it depends on which way you look at it.

Pull the Pocket said...

Betfair uncouples every entry - everyone, even ones that are coupled at the home track. Why? Because their customers want it (read it on the chat boards), and they get more handle, by carding more bettable races.

Betfair has 3 million customers, and harness racing (if last night is any indication) can barely bet $4M on one of the biggest nights of the year.

The evidence is there, if we look for it.


Pacingguy said...

In my next post, I talked further about this.

I think our biggest problem is owners gravitate to the same few trainers (Burke, Takter, Teague, etc.) that the number of uncoupled entries is magnified. It seems in the past horses were more spread out.

At one time YR had a rule in their stakes limiting each trainer to no more than two horses in a race.