NYRA coupling rule is archaic

Jan 7, 2021 5:00 AM

Jockeys Trevor McCarthy and Katie Davis became a couple off the track when they were married in Mid-December. What they did not realize is their marriage made them a couple on the track, too.

McCarthy, among the leading riders in Maryland, and Davis announced they would move their tack to Aqueduct for the winter. After they set up shop in New York, the couple were surprised to learn about an obscure New York State Gaming Commission rule that states: “All horses trained or ridden by a spouse, parent, issue or member of a jockey’s household shall be coupled in the betting with any horse ridden by such jockey.”

The rule requires horses ridden in the same race by McCarthy and Davis in New York to be coupled for wagering purposes. The impact will have a negative effect on handle, appears inconsistent with other perceived conflicts of interests, and could hurt the business of both jockeys.

As we saw when field sizes increased dramatically at Los Alamitos in December, wagering handle is positively influenced by larger fields. McCarthy and Davis rode in the same race twice on New Year’s Day and three times on Jan. 2, forcing their mounts to be coupled in the wagering. The decrease in field size makes for less wagering options, which leads to lower handle.

Another factor came into play in Sunday’s ninth race at Aqueduct. Midway thru the card, McCarthy was named as a replacement rider in the finale aboard 30-1 long shot Red Priestess. Since Davis was already scheduled to ride Wish for Magic in the same race, Red Priestess was scratched from all wagering pools and raced for purse money only. All rolling bets that included Red Priestess before the scratch were transferred to the starting favorite, which turned out to be winner Investment Grade.

The rule seems inconsistent based on how other family relationships are handled. Two of the annual leading riders in New York — Irad Ortiz Jr. and Jose Ortiz — are brothers who ride against each other on a regular basis without being coupled in the wagering. Trainer Brittany Russell often uses jockey/husband Sheldon Russell on her horses in Maryland, but they are not coupled in the wagering when Brittany trains a horse in a race and Sheldon rides for another trainer.

Katie Davis has two siblings — Jacqueline and Dylan — who are also jockeys, and all have ridden in the same race without having to be coupled for wagering purposes. Their father, former jockey Robbie Davis, is now a trainer who has started horses in races in which his children have ridden for different barns.

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For now, the New York Racing Association has no option but to follow the current rules as they are written. It could take some time for the rule to be changed, and it could force McCarthy and Davis to ply their trade on another circuit such as in Maryland where there is no coupling rule for horses ridden by jockeys who are married. 

Hopefully the NYRA addresses and changes the outdated rule sooner than later.

Van Dyke fined for winning

If you have access to race replays, pull up the sixth race from Santa Anita last Saturday. Jockey Drayden Van Dyke put together a masterful ride on Tizamagician, sending him from the gate to establish the pace, and getting him to re-rally after being headed by favored Paladar at the top of the stretch for a well-earned victory.

Van Dyke’s reward? A $1,000 fine for using his riding crop eight times, more than the six times allowed in California.

Watching the replay, I don’t think there was anything abusive about this ride. Horse racing is an athletic competition, not a youth soccer tournament. There will be winners and losers and not all will go home with a participation trophy.

Van Dyke did his best to maximize his placing and protect the wagering public without endangering his horse. I don’t believe the new whip rules were created to discourage the effort shown by the winning jockey, but it may become the result.

Lindo Report Play for Gaming Today: Santa Anita Friday, Race 7: Salvador Mundi (No. 3). Gelding was too far behind a slow pace when beaten a neck at Del Mar. He owns a win over the local turf and has more tactical speed than he showed last time. Expect a stalking trip from the inside.