03/28/2002 12:00AM

Maryland uncouples entries

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Seeking to increase the number of betting interests in races to counterbalance a shortage of horses, the operators of Laurel Park and Pimlico received permission Tuesday from the Maryland Racing Commission to ease restrictions on uncoupled entries in some types of races.

Under existing rules, trainers who enter two or more horses owned by different clients in the same race are required to run the horses as a coupled entry, except in stakes races. Under the new rules, the trainers would be able to run the horses as independent entries.

"Hopefully, it benefits the whole program," said Lou Raffetto, chief operating officer of the tracks. "Sometimes a race may not [be run] because we have five betting interests and two entries. Now we can make the race go with eight betting interests."

The new rules would apply to maiden special weight and allowance races, as well as claiming races worth more than $20,000. Coupled entries would continue in cheaper races.

The commission voted 4-2 in favor of the new rules, which were passed for a six-month trial on an emergency basis and must receive approval from the Administrative Legislative Review Committee in Annapolis.

That approval could take two to three weeks, said Mike Hopkins, acting executive secretary of the racing commission.

-The Washington Post