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Monday, June 2, 2014

A Case of Blocking and the Quandry it Presents

There have been calls by many in the industry for New York to get rid of its coupled entry rule when it comes to stakes races because it reduces the number of betting interests in a race, often making it hard for horse players to bet the race.

The debate seems to go back and forth and when it seems like the racing commissions may bend, something such as what may have happened yesterday in the Roll For Joe at Tioga occurs which emboldens the regulator's case to hold fast.

Here is the replay of yesterday's race.  Notice how they approach the finish line the first time, the field is basically going in Indian file, then things start to change as at the 1:06 point at the video, Dovuto Hanover (#3) and Word Power (#10) move to the outside.,,,,,

__ where they are joined by Sweet Lou's entry mate, Clear Vision (#1A) who pulls right in front of those two horses.

Okay, fair enough.  No one wants to get boxed in in a race like this so it makes sense for Clear Vision to pull,  The problem  is if you go out, you are supposed to move forward,  In this case Clear Vision, moved to the outside and went nowhere, in effect blocking the two potential challengers, making the overland route useless.  Whereas Sweet Lou may have been pressured if Clear Vision didn't pull and sit, you see Sweet Lou getting his own way until they turn for home.  This has led some people to suggest 'teaming' was going on.

Would this have changed the outcome of the race?  We will never know so while those who wagered on the race are left to ponder 'What if'?', the NYGCB has the ammunition they need to continue their coupled entry rule. Yes, the ownership of the Burke entry horses are not exactly the same so while you can argue each one is being raced to the best of their ability, the fact the majority owners are the same allows someone to make an argument to the contrary.

Which leads us to the present quandary.  If we uncouple horses, we run the risk of team racing where people may wager on the wrong half of the uncoupled entry.  If we keep coupling horses, we protect bettors (some who may not want protection), but we make some races less desirable for wagering.  To make things worse, each state does their own thing so there isn't a common policy.

Personally, I am for uncoupling the horses, but I am experienced horse player so I know to figure an entry mate, whether coupled or not, may run 'interference' for a stable mate; it's for me to predict who will run interference for whom.  However, uncoupling horses means putting the potential newbie in the position of potentially getting taken advantage of, losing money until they learn the lesson of uncoupled entries or give up after betting the wrong entry mate one time too many.

Remember when they printed in the program the disclaimer that a qualifying race does not necessarily show the horse's true ability but is merely to show they can meet the qualifying standards and be competitive; basically a message which meant don't take a qualifying races too seriously?  Do we need when there are uncoupled stable mates mates a similar disclaimer?  Heck not, for people would be rightfully asking how can you let people bet on uncoupled stable mates when you know this stuff goes on.

The key is to have judges handing down hefty penalties when a stable mate pulls and doesn't move forward or similar 'teaming' efforts.  Then the betting public will have the confidence to wager on races where there are uncoupled stable mates.  The problem is there is serious doubts if judges have the backbone to throw the book in these situations if necessary.

So expect the couple/uncouple debate to continue for the foreseeable future until the industry comes up with a solution to deal with the quandary the industry presents itself.  

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