Good or bad for Horse Racing Partnerships and bettors?
Coupling horses as a betting entry in horse racing has been around for decades. The idea is if a trainer or owner is entering more than one horse in a race, he or she knows which one of the two horses is better and could exploit that fact by using the “other” horse tactically to set up the race for the “better” horse. The purpose of coupling the horses into one betting entry is to protect those betting on the other horse, so even if the other horse isn’t given his best chance of winning and the better horse does in fact win, the person placing the bet on the other horse is protected.
In horse racing the terminology used for this is “rabbit”. An example would be a trainer has a “better” horse that is a closer so the trainer enters the “other” horse to show speed to ensure the better horse has a fast pace to rally into. Basically the rabbit is sacrificed so the better horse has an improved chance of winning.
So, coupling would seem better for racing overall but there can be problems with coupling. Coupling can make the wagering less appealing because of fewer betting entries. When horses are coupled in small fields or there are multiple horses coupled in a race the betting opportunities can become far less attractive. So, in some cases, coupling is protecting gamblers to a fault.
So, aside from the casual bettor, how does this effect horse racing partnerships as owners? Assuming as owners, we know more about the horses being entered in a race and we know a rabbit is being entered. It really doesn’t matter if the entry is coupled or not, an unfair advantage has been created by “setting up” the race. Partnerships generally have a different combination of owners owning a percentage of the horse so they are not in a position to “sacrifice” their horse so another horse wearing the same silks can win for another group of owners. A single owner or group of owners that commonly own a large number of horses together can easily come up with a rabbit to sacrifice. In this case the use of a rabbit can put the partnership at a disadvantage that can be financially very costly.
This is an example of something racing can do without having to couple the entries and therefore maximize the wagering appeal of the race. First, let the stewards decide if a horse was used in a way that was not in the true spirit of winning the race and enhanced the chance of another commonly owned horse winning. They rule on all other infractions that occur during a race, including a jockey not giving his best effort in riding the race. They could disqualify the rabbit and the horse that benefited from those tactics. They could also penalize the riders, trainers and owners involved and I am sure if they were vigilant with these penalties we would have a more level playing field for horse racing partnerships and the gambler as well.