The McCarthy “Coupling” Controversy Explained

Horse Racing Radar
Frisco Bash
Frisco Bash is a Staff writer for Horse Racing Radar
Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Katie Davis and Trevor McCarthy are two jockeys at Aqueduct Park who recently married and now face unusual obstacles. They are subject to a new "coupling" rule passed by the Gaming Commission, which states that whenever they are entered in the same race they must run as a coupled entry. Basically they are considered a single entity in the race. This rule went into effect January 1st of this year.

What this means for bettors is that if you bet on Katie's horse, you also get Trevor's horse for no additional charge.

When this happens, the NYRA loses about $90K in handle, according to Thoroughbred Daily News. Obviously the racing office doesn't like this and would rather separate Katie Davis and Trevor McCarthy from competing in the same race.

This is where matters become controversial. Katie Davis said trainers were being told that if they name her on a horse, then the race won't go. And basically to find a different rider if they wanted to race at all. 

Based on that, Katie Davis faces an unfair choice: to pursue her career in spite of being blackballed by the racing office, or, pack up and ride for another track. Is this justice?

This drew varying comments and reactions from the horse racing community. Some say she can ride elsewhere and that this isn't the only track. Others say she could stay right where she is and be treated fairly. 

This isn't the only industry where the coupled-entry concept caused problems. It was an issue in harness racing going back to 2014. It is all the same with Horse Racing today. 

The intention is: by enforcing coupled entry, it preserves the integrity, or the appearance of it, for the wagering public. That perhaps it'll eliminate the idea that the two competitors are in cahoots with one another. 

However, the problem on the face of that intention is why then are sibling-jockeys permitted to compete uncoupled? Wouldn't they be suspected of unfairly working together as well? Integrity would be breached in that regard too.

Nevertheless, the coupling rule is enforced only to married jockeys.

Well, let us ask: has the coupling rule succeeded in preserving the image of integrity? Or is it achieving the opposite? 

It is worth thinking about just who benefits from the coupling rule. The NYRA does not, for they lose money. The bettors do not, for we've seen refrain or wager elsewhere. Katie Davis does not, obviously, for she loses mounts over the rule and impedes her career advancement. And Trevor McCarthy is subject to the same pressures as his wife. At best, he isn't harmed by the rule. So why have the rule at all?

Maybe the Gaming Commission can consult trainers, riders, horsemen for their secured opinions on how to go about finding a better solution — or just scrap the rule in the first place and be without coupled entries.


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