CHRB to End Coupled Wagering Interests

Coupled entries for wagering due to common ownership should be eliminated, the California Horse Racing Board decided at its meeting Jan. 19 in Arcadia.

By unanimous decision, the commission voted to repeal a longstanding rule in the state that mandates coupled entries when an individual has ownership interest in more than one horse in a race. The decision requires a 45-day public comment period before it can be finalized.

Jerry Moss, who chairs the CHRB's pari-mutuel committee, said the item came up because of instances when the stronger part of an entry is scratched prior to post time. "In this day and age, no bettor should be stuck with a horse he didn't bet on," he said.

The committee suggested two possible remedies: eliminating the coupling rule or allowing the regulation to stand but providing that the withdrawal of one horse from a wagering interest means the removal of the entry for wagering purposes. The remaining horse or horses would have run for purse money only.

Eliminating the rule was easily the choice of the board and also drew the support of Ron Charles, president of Santa Anita Park, and Sherwood Chillingworth of the Oak Tree Racing Association.

"It would add to the field size," Charles said, "so we support it."

Chillingworth suggested the board should continue to require owners to designate a preferred starter in the case of a race being overfilled.

Under the change, Bob and Beverly Lewis' Dance Daily would have paid significantly more than the $2.40 she returned Jan. 16 when coupled with Folklore in the Santa Ynez Stakes (gr. II).

There was no opposition to the repeal stated at the meeting. With the state's horse shortage, coupled entries have become something of a rarity in California these days. Previously, horses running for the same trainer were required to run as an entry as well, but that was dropped several years ago.

In other action, the board supported an amendment to rules covering surface specifications for racetracks that convert to polymer or wax coated racing surfaces. The proposed changes are subject to a 45-day public comment period.

Craig Fravel, vice president at Del Mar, which is examining installation of the new track surface perhaps by 2007, explained to the board that traditional safety specifications requiring banked turns and slopes don't apply to polymer tracks, which drain differently.

A spokesman for the Pacific Quarter Horse Racing Association asked the board to delay implementation until it completes its own study of the effectiveness of Polytrack for its breed.

Board chairman Richard Shapiro said there would be no changes to existing specifications.

"Our intent is to add these (changes) for tracks that want to install Polytrack," he said.