04/18/2010 11:00PM

New York rule change would uncouple entries


A proposed rule change that would uncouple same-trainer, different-owner entries in all races could go into effect in New York by late June, creating a potential significant boost in handle for the New York Racing Association.

Currently, multiple horses trained by the same trainer but owned by different parties must be coupled and run as one betting interest, except in stakes races. Under the proposed rule change, "a maximum of two horses trained by the same trainer may race uncoupled in any race provided the entries do not have common ownership."

The proposed rule will be published in the New York State Register on Wednesday with a 45-day public comment period. The comment period ends June 7. Barring strenuous objections, it is possible the New York State Racing and Wagering Board would adopt the measure at its June 24 meeting. New York Racing Association officials said they would implement the uncoupled entry rule as soon as it becomes law, meaning sometime during the Belmont spring/summer meet.

"We feel it's long overdue," said NYRA's president and CEO, Charles Hayward. "All simulcast outlets we bet on and all simulcast outlets OTB bets on has this rule in place. There are no integrity issues here. All major racing jurisdictions - Florida, Kentucky, California - have been doing this for a long time.''

NYRA first approached the racing and wagering board about such a rule change in a letter to the board written on May 12, 2006, but the board never acted on it. Invariably, when the longer-priced of two uncoupled horses wins, there is an outcry of something untoward having been done. That will be something the stewards will have to monitor.

Toward that end, if the stewards deem that one part of the entry is disqualified from a position for violation of the rules of racing, "any other horses entered by the same trainer shall also be disqualified if in the judgment of the stewards such violation prevented any other horse or horses from finishing ahead of the other part of the entry."

NYRA officials estimate that from 2006 to 2009, an additional $556,407,606 in total handle - which would have resulted in $20.7 million in net revenue to NYRA and $18.7 million to purses - was lost because of the coupled entry rule. New York rules don't allow for superfecta wagering to be offered in races with coupled entries, which has led to 1,246 scratches from 2006 to 2009.

Without revenue from a stalled slots project at Aqueduct and with New York City Off-Track Betting Corp. in bankruptcy, NYRA finds itself in a serious money crunch that could impact its ability to conduct an uninterrupted racing schedule through the end of the year.