Arc bettors must sort through numbers game


LAUREL -- The history-making simulcast of the $1.6 million Ciga Prix De l'Arc de Triomphe from the Longchamp track near Paris tomorrow also is making history at Laurel Race Course because of a difference in rules between France and Maryland.

The Arc will mark the first legalized betting in this state of horse race in Europe, and will be the first major pari-mutuel race bet on here that won't pay off on the saddlecloth numbers of the first three finishers.

So, if you bet on the Arc at Laurel or at the intertrack facility -Pimlico Race Course -- forget what appears on the closed-circuit video screens or at home on NBC, which will telecast Europe's richest race at approximately 11:30 a.m.

The problem developed when 21 horses were entered in thrace, to be run at about 1 1/2 miles on the turf.

French saddlecloths do not take into consideration the rules oMaryland racing, which are inflexible, no matter if the races are not being run on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The difficulty involves stable couplings -- that is, horsebracketed together for betting purposes when one person owns more than one horse in a race.

That means two horses owned by the Aga Khan -- Albadr anSalsabil -- will be listed as 1 and 1a in Maryland. In all Maryland gambling on the Arc, a bet on one is a bet on both. If the race were being run with the others at Laurel tomorrow, they would carry saddlecloths showing those numbers and bettors could follow the numbers on the video screen.

"But French racing only requires that they be coupled wheexotic bets are involved," Clinton Pitts Jr., chief steward in Maryland, said.

"They're not coupled in win betting, but they are in certain othebets."

So, each of the 21 horses in the Arc will carry an individuasaddlecloth. Albadr is No. 1 and Salsabil is No. 18.

At Longchamp, Salsabil is a 7-4 favorite, and Albadr is 20-1. ALaurel, the No. 1 and 1a entry will be listed as 9-5 favorite.

There are four stable couplings in the Arc. That means there wilbe a 1-1a entry for the two Khan horses. There will be a 2-2b-2c entry because Sheik Hamdan al Maktoum has three horses entered, a 3-3d entry both owned by Hamdan's brother, Mohammed al Maktoum, and a 4-4e entry because owner Jean Bernard Fetoux has two horses entered.

If that's not confusing, consider that even with the entries, that leaves 16 betting interests, and Maryland racing permits 14. So, three of them -- usually the worst ones in the lineup -- will be listed as a "field" entry.

In the United States, races without stable couplings and nooversubscribed to permit field entries, the saddlecloths would match the post position numbers.

Not in France, however. There, the saddlecloth numbers arassigned with top weights receiving the lowest numbers and the low weights getting the highest numbers.

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