SOMETIMES it happens that there are horse owners who run coupled entries in a major race. One entry is the intended winner and the other the “rabbit” to wear opponents down.
It is a racing tactic designed to strengthen the career accomplishments of one horse over the other. In terms of betting, both entries carry the same number so should either of them win, the bettor’s wager is still good – there is no effect on the betting.
However, this stratagem does take away from the “rabbit” the chance to win and notch its own victories, unless it’s much better than its partner. In that case, its jockey must, in fairness, ride the horse out and allow it to finish on merit.
But it could happen that a rabbit’s jockey, in his eagerness to please his owner and/or trainer, will trash his mount’s opportunity in order to hand the victory on a golden plate to their partner, the designated winner.
The present leadership of the Philippine Racing Commission takes a dim view of this decades-old ploy. They recently chided jockey Kelvin Abobo for his ride on Brilliance last June 18, 2017 at Santa Ana Park in the second leg of the Philracom Triple Crown, the country’s prestigious race trilogy for 3-year-olds.
Brilliance ran as the coupled entry of Sepfourteen, who had won the first leg of the series. The latter won narrowly and as I noted in my column about the results of that race, Brilliance would have easily won if she’d been given her head.
At the investigation conducted by the Philracom’s Committee on Facilities and Conduct of Races, Abobo explained that he believed his mount was “outclassed” by Sepfourteen. Thus, he “kept looking back to make sure [he] would place second because [he] expected Sepfourteen to gain speed in the last 200 meters.”
However, the rider “admitted that it was possible for [his] horse to [have won] the race.”
In line with the Committee’s findings and recommendation, Philracom deemed that particular performance of Abobo’s “questionable” and issued him a stern warning, with the further caveat that “any repetition of similar acts will be dealt with more severely.”
Also hauled on the carpet were the Santa Ana Park stewards, who did not impose a penalty on Abobo “because coupled entries [are] treated as one and the betting was not affected.
They also opined that it was but “natural for jockey Abobo to assist [his] coupled entry in order for the latter to sweep the Triple Crown.” This is the usual way that the rule on coupled entries is interpreted.
Philracom, however, reminded the stewards that “there is no rule prohibiting the imposition of a penalty on erring jockeys in case of coupled entries.” A stern warning was also issued to the stewards.
I’m a firm believer in horses running on their own merits, even the case of coupled entries. I don’t hold with the “rabbit” tactic; coupled entries should be run to double your chances of winning and placing. Why not race them both to win, and see once and for all which one is better? Let’s not even go into the impact that win-lose records have on breeding and sales.
Brilliance could have won the second leg of the Triple Crown this year. If she had, she’d have made racing history a little bit different and a lot more honest and authentic.
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