01/19/2006 1:00AM

CHRB votes to eliminate the coupling of entries


ARCADIA, Calif. - The California Horse Racing Board approved a proposal to eliminate coupled entries at its monthly meeting on Thursday. The rule change would not be implemented for several months at the earliest.

The rule change must undergo a 45-day public comment period before being resubmitted to the board for further discussion and a vote. If no changes are made to the language, the rule must still be approved by the state attorney general's office before it goes into effect.

It is possible that the rule-making procedure could be extended if there is considerable feedback from the racing industry or fans.

"I think we'll get some comment on this," commissioner John Harris said.

Proponents of the rule change say it will increase field size in a state that struggles to attract large fields. In California, horses are coupled in the betting if they have common ownership. The only current exception is in some major stakes, when all horses run uncoupled.

Before they approved the rule change, the CHRB decided not to vote Thursday on a proposed rule that would have called for horses that are part of an entry to run only for purse money in the event that another member of the entry is a late scratch. Such a rule is in place in New York.

"No bettor should be stuck with a horse they didn't want to bet on," commissioner Jerry Moss said. "There are a number of ways to deal with it. The less complicated is to eliminate entries."

The board held a lengthy discussion on the effects of forcing California racing associations to make their signals available to all licensed account-wagering providers, such as TVG, XpressBet, and Youbet.com.

The issue is expected to be discussed at length through the year before the account-wagering providers have their licenses renewed.

Currently, Santa Anita's signal is offered on XpressBet, but not TVG. Del Mar, Fairplex Park, Hollywood Park, Los Alamitos, and Oak Tree at Santa Anita are offered on TVG but not XpressBet. Santa Anita and XpressBet are both owned by Magna Entertainment.

Several officials argued that the signals should be sent to all providers in an effort to maximize revenue to the tracks and horsemen.

TVG officials defended the exclusive arrangements they hold with several racetracks, saying they are vital to increasing handle in the absence of advertising revenue.

"I think this is a serious and important matter on how we can help tracks have more revenue and enhance purses," said CHRB chairman Richard Shapiro.

The board did not vote on a proposed rule that would allow for increased backstretch surveillance of trainers who have recent medication violations, a win ratio of 25 percent or more from 20 consecutive starters, an in-the-money ratio of 60 percent or more from 20 consecutive starters, or "a history of dramatically improving the performance" of recently claimed horses.

Shapiro asked the state's attorney general's office for an opinion of whether the CHRB already has the right to conduct extensive surveillance without additional rules.

"What happens when a win rate is 24.5 percent?" Shapiro said. "These items are too limited."