By T. D. Thornton
Two months after costing New York an estimated $4.2 million in lost handle revenue during the first quarter of 2021, a bill to eliminate an antiquated state requirement that same-race mounts of married jockeys be coupled in pari-mutuel wagering has passed both the Assembly and Senate.
The New York Senate unanimously passed Bill No. A7024 June 1 by a 63-0 margin. The Assembly had passed it 147-0 on May 5.
The measure, if signed into law by the governor, would take effect immediately. It now charges racetrack operators with the responsibility for “adequately” informing the public about jockey and trainer family relations that could be perceived as conflicts of interest.
The decades-old rule was a focal point of intense scrutiny earlier this year because it affected recently married jockeys Trevor McCarthy and Katie Davis. Together, they had moved their tack from Maryland to New York after being married in December.
But when they began competing in common races at Aqueduct, it triggered the application of little-used state rule 4025.10 (f), which 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.” That meant on 41 occasions between Jan. 1 and Mar. 21, McCarthy and Davis's mounts in common races at Aqueduct necessitated a 1 and 1A coupling.
Although it's impossible to project the precise amount of handle that evaporates when a track loses a betting interest by forcing two independently owned and trained horses into a single mutuel coupling, a rough estimate of lost betting handle can be derived by multiplying Aqueduct's winter/spring per-entrant rounded handle of $103,000 by 41 to get the $4.2 million estimate.
The rule was widely criticized as being outdated and sexist, and during the first three months of 2021 it caused confusion among bettors, plus reams of bad press for Aqueduct (whose officials stated there was nothing they could do to change the law) and the New York State Gaming Commission (which did not address the controversy during any open, public meetings).
By February, Davis was claiming that Aqueduct racing office workers were pressuring trainers into not naming her on mounts, an allegation that a track spokesperson denied. She switched to accepting mounts in Maryland Apr. 8 while McCarthy continued to ride in New York.
On May 9, Davis announced on Twitter that she and McCarthy are expecting a child and she has not ridden in a race since that date. Shortly thereafter, the couple relocated to California, and McCarthy began riding at Santa Anita as of May 28.
The bill amends the state's racing, pari-mutuel wagering and breeding law by adding a new section that reads:
“Notwithstanding any law, rule or regulation to the contrary, all horses trained or ridden by a spouse, parent, issue or member of a jockey's household shall not be coupled in the betting with any horse ridden by such jockey. The racetrack operator shall take such actions as are necessary to inform the public adequately with regard to the relationship between any such jockey or trainer.”