Present Scale of Weight-for-Age Races Unduly Favors Two and Three-Year-Olds, Daily Racing Form, 1917-12-29


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A . A PRESENT SCALE OF WEIGHT-FOR-AGE RACES UNDULY FAVORS TWO AND THREE-YEAR-OLDS i I!y W. S. AOSRURGII. The racing of the past season, as well as that of 1910, has further demonstrated that the present scale of weights-for-age unduly favors two and three-year-olds in competition with older horses. In 191 we had not only many instances of three-year-olds defeating the older horses in hollow fashion, but we had the rather unusual spectacle of three-year-olds carrying tcp weight in handicaps for all ages and winning them. Dodge and Spur, for instance, did this in 1910. and they were not the only ones. The past year Ave have seen the three-year-old Omar Khayyam beating Spur for the Saratoga Cup at weight-for-age, winning by five lengths, witli his head in his chest. Then there is Cudgel, a three-year-old, carrying 131 pounds top weight in a handicap at Latonia, to Rancher, a five-year-old, with 110 pounds and winning; and later his carrying 133 pounds and finishing third after being almost knocked down at the start, conceding twenty-eight pounds to the five-year-old winner Rancher, Westy Hogan, the three-year-old, conceding twenty-nine pounds, according to the scale to the sprinter Leochares. Then, Omar Khayyam, conceding twenty-eight pounds to the six-vear-old Flittergold. and Carrying 130 pounds, top weight for the Bowie Handicap. The two-year-old Tippity Wi tche t, also, made a shocking example of a field of four and five-year-olds at Laurel, conceding actual weight to each of them and as much as eight pounds to Dorcas, four years. According to the scale, Dorcas would have been asked to concede him forty pounds. Imagine the result for as it was, the two-year-old won cantering by six lengths. Luckily it was a handicap. I would not go so far as to say the present scale of weight-for-age is an anachronism, but I fear it is not responsive to existing conditions. The conditions have changed with the march of time. Fifty years ago, horses were in their prime at five years old. Then came a period when four-year-olds were in the ascendant. Today, it requires tin exceptional four, five or six-year-old to hold his own with a three-year-old at weght-for-age. In earlier days, horses did not race so often arid retained their form at four and five years old. Now, its only . geldings that do so, and few of them: The two arid three-year-olds seem able to win at weight-forsage over older horses whenever their owners elect to start them. This is a fact, especially after the spring months have passed. If anybody doubts this, let me ask: Where is the owner who would have started an old horse the past autumn against Hoiirless or Omar Khayyam at weight-for-age? LUKE BLACKBURN SETS NEW DEPARTURE. Luke Blackburn may be said to have inaugurated a new departure in the racing of three-year-olds. Until his year it had not been the custom to start three-year-olds in competition witli the older horses, especially in handicaps. But in Luke Blackburns vear 1880, after lie had galloped away with all "the events fur threeTyear-olds, he boldly entered the field for the Grand Union Prize, a handicap for all ages, at Saratoga, one and three-quarter miles, and won it by two lengths, fairly pulling McLaughlin cut of the saddle. The summary of the race reads : Weight. Handicap. for Age. Luke Blackburn, three years 110 102 One Dime, four years 110 118 Glenmore. five years 11S 12-1 Cammie F., five .years 103 319 General Philips, six years 105 120 Chimney Sweep, four years... 103 IIS Here was a three-year-old which had already started seventeen times, conceding tweuty-two pounds to the second horse or a year and six pounds; twenty pounds to the third or two years and twenty pounds, and to General Philips thirty-five iwuuds! And, be it remembered. Glenmore was one of the "cracks" of the all aged division, having defeated Monitor, Uncus, Report and Ferida. I might have mentioned that previous to Luke Blackburns year, Spendthrift, the crack three-year-old of. 1879. had won the Champion Stakes at Monmouth Park weight-forruge, beating Bramble. Since then there has seldom been a year in which the best three-year-olds have not beaten the all aged class in competition at weight-for-age, especially the later, years. Hanover did. it, so did Sysonby, Lamplighter, Africander Stalwart, Beldame, Ort Wells, Delhi, Ballot, Henry of Navarre, Fair Plav. George Kinney. Peter Pan, The Manager, Hindoo, The Firin, Fitz Herbert, Oiseau, Requital. Ornament, Ileimis, Meridian, Cock o the Walk and Roanier. The Great Republic Stakes at Saratoga, the most valuable all aged event we ever had, gave further testimony of the superority of three-year-olds over older horses at the present scale of weights-for-age. It was run only four seasons and tho three-year-olds won it each year 1904 Delhi, 1905 Sysonby, 190G Tangle. 1907 Ballot. Not only that, but the three-year-olds finished second each year, while in 1900 and 1907, liiey ran first, second and third. Again, take the Annual Champion Stakes at Coney Island, practically weight-for-age, over a two and one-quarter mile course. For nine seasons i it was run and for six seasons the three-year-olds , prevailed, viz: 1902 Major Daingerfield, 190-1 Stalwart, 1905 Sysonby, 1900 Accountant, 1907 Salvi-dere, 190S King James. In the last four years, the three-year-olds finished first and second. i , Again, the Saratoga Cup, weight-for-age, has been run, off and on, for the last fifty years. Up to 1901, no three-year-old had won it. But from that date no less than seven three-year-olds have succeeded in winning it, viz: 1901 Blues. 1903 Africander, 1904 Beldame, 1909 Olambala, 1910 Countless, 191l Friar Rock, 1917 Omar Khayyam. Some years since the late D. D. Withers decided in the case of LIntriguante at Morris Park, that an allowance could not be deducted from a penalty. I submitted the question to Messrs. Weatherby of Loudon. They replied, citing the Gordon Stakes at Goodwood, that an allowance should he deducted from a penalty; the idea being tiiat in the case of a five or six-year-old, for example, which had won valuable stakes at two or three years old, which penalized him to an extent as to prevent his winning, he was granted allowances to offset his penalties. In other words, he had been beaten repeatedly as a four or five-year-old had lost his form. And that is the crux of the argument horses which have been raced very hard deteriorate with advancing age. There are exceptions Glenmore and Checkmate for example, also Freeland, General Monroe and Advance Guard wrere better at five and six than at two or three years old. But the system of racing lias changed. Horses are handled earlier, mature earlier and race more frequently than in former times, and they wear out earlier as a consequence. Up to the time Conroy won it 1901, horsemen had begun to accept it as tin article of faith that no three-year-old could win the Brooklyn Handicap or the Suburban. They are spring events and three-year-olds are not supposed to be at their best in the spring. Yet. since that date Irish Lad, Superman, Celt, Friar Rock, Africander and Fitz Herbert have been returned winners. But in the autumn, the three-year-olds nowadays seem able to not only defeat the older horses at weight-for-age, but to concede them actual weight. Horses are over-marked, they are raced so frequently that by the time they are four or five their powers are diminished, and under our present system of racing, the results are such as to incline us to the belief that the really great race horses are at the top of their form, and are seldom greater at any period of their lives than the autumn of their three-year-old season. WHAT EFFECT A CHANGE WOULD MAKE. Should the scale of weights-for-age be revised, raising the weights to be carried by the younger horses, the effect might, perhaps, cause fewer three-year-olds to be started for races for all ages. If so, it might lead to the offering of more stakes exclusively for three-year-olds. And that is most desirable, for, in recent years, the stakes for three-year-olds have been too few, especially after say July. As a result, the trainers are compelled to start three-year-olds in the events for all ages. Probably they prefer rather than are compelled to do so, as they have attained to a knowledge that the present scale renders it nearer a "sure thing" to beat the older horses than to beat each other. The revival of the Realization Stakes at Belmont Park in the autumn is one of the happiest events of recent years. There should be more stakes for three-year-olds exclusively. Not that they should be kept out of races with the older horses, as such meetings are interesting to the student of racing. Rut at the present scale, they seem unduly favored. By raising the scale to meet the requirements of the times, it would better test the three-year-olds and enable us to obtain a better idea of their capacity with a view to their future value as stallions. And that is the most important subject in the administration of racing. There is no hypocrisy in the claim that racing is for tlie purpose of "improving the breed of horses," although there are people who laugh at it, and regard it as a mere pretence. The i-eal racing men in all countries regard it as tlie only means of indicating to which stallions and mares they shall breed in order to improve the racing strain, and thus secure the winners of the future, as well as to improve the breed of horses for many other purposes. They like to win races, of course; they like tlie amusement of betting on races; tney have no idea of making racing a business, or even a profit. If they win enough money to cover expenses, which they seldom do, they think they are doing well. But, if these cynics imagine that betting is the sole object of racing, let them ask the legislature to grant them a charter on such conditions, and they will have a rude awakening. It lias been said that there was no necessity of revising the scale of weights for age because we have hardly any weight for age races. If that were the only reason against revision, it might have some weight; but it is not. The scale of weights for age is the basis of calculation in all races, except those in which the weights are fixed by their conditions. It is the basis upon which even the lowly selling races are calculated, not to speak of those having penalties and allowances. It permeates the entire program of meetings, except that portion which are handicaps. As to the decline of weight-for-age races, it is not improbable that their decline may be due to the unmistakable superiority of the three-year-olds in recent years over the older horses by reason of the relative weights under the scale of weights-for-age; and if so, is another evidence that the scale is not responsive to present conditions.

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