Here and There on the Turf: Evils of the Past. Progress of the Turf. Plea for the Handicap. Passing of Culver City, Daily Racing Form, 1924-01-09


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Here and There on the Turf Evils of the Past. Progress of the Turf. Plea for the Handicap. Passing of Culver City. There will always be those who continuously hark back to the "good old days," and it will be ever thus. They cannot see the present-day champions and they find much fault with the present conduct of racing. Theyj seldom suggest a remedy, but they can see no i merit in the champions of today, but live in! the past and scoff at the idea of a Zev or a ! j Man o War having a possible chance with the thoroughbred of the misty past. Yet in those "good old days" the turf had its faults and the turf has become infinitely better with the succeeding generations. Horses run faster, and that is not alone attributable to the better courses over which they race. The breed has been improved. Then jn the matter of the evils of the turf, it might be remarked that way back in 1855 "Stonehenge" j William Allison, in his encyclopedia of Rural Sports, devotes a considerable chapter to the introduction of handicaps. He sets forth that such races "offer a constant premium to fraud and deception, for without these a horse has little chance of winning a handicap if he were to run every month from March to September. The reason is obvious enough, for it is only by deceiving handicappers that the winning horse is weighted below his real powers and thus permitted to win." Further along in his opposition to the introduction of handicaps as a fixed part of J racing "Stonehenge" points out that when an owner has a horse engaged in a handicap ol importance he will run him expressly to lose in previous races in order that he may get weight off for the big event in question. "Stonehenge" paid a doubtful compliment to the handicappcr away back in those days. It was doubtful for the reason, that it intimated broadly that it would be easy to fool that official. But on the. other hand, it was a high compliment indeed when he contended that about the only winning chance was to resort to this fraud. In other words, he undertook to show that handicaps would see all the horses finishing abreast if it were not for thej sharp practice. In those days there was also much scratching of favorites that played a havoc that was! deplored by "Stonehenge." Of course, scratching of favorites, as shown in his interesting work, referred to the withdrawal of a favorite in the future book. There is so little future booking in America that it is an abuse that could not be considered on this side of thej Atlantic. These are just some of the complaints of the long ago, and when those who cry wolf now it is not a new cry. There have been critics of all time and the "good old days" had more to be criticized than exists at this time. Racing has improved marvelously since "Stonehenge" wrote his encyclopedia of rural sports. The horses have improved and it was natural that both the sport and the horse should go fonvard. If indeed it had not gone forward with the times there would be no racing now to tell about. At this time it is generally agreed that there is less chance for fraud in a handicap than almost any other. That is, fraud that has to do with the unfair hiding of the form of a horse. Our handicappers have kept march with the improvement that has come to the other branches of the sport. Of course, "Stonehenge" was writing of the turf in England in the "good old days," but the English turf wa3 far from being an infant at that time. Of course, the handicappers of that day had to depend largely on personal observation in arriving at their handicaps, but they did not have the vast number of horses to handicap that constitutes the duty of the handicapper of this day. Our handicappers have the help of better-kept records of all the races that are run than was possible, and these records are indespensable. When all the racing everywhere is so adequately and fully reported the handicapper has something besides his personal observation to work on, and with the study he has given his chosen calling he is about the hardest man on the race course to fool. And even supposing that in this enlightened day unscrupulous trainers have from time to time raced their horses "expressly to lose" for the purpose of getting weight off, that is another good argument for the classified handicaps that have been suggested by Walter S. Vosburgh, the Jockey Club handicapper. Handicaps are not of a sufficient value for the trainer to race his horse "expressly to lose" in stakes and it will be stake winners that will be in the top class of the handicap. As far as the other handicap classes are concerned the trainers will have scant chance to fool Mr. Vosburgh, even if they should be so disposed. Every trainer is desirous to have as favorable an allotment as is possible, and there is no better chance for a favorable allotment than with the classified handicaps. Y It is an instant relief from the excessive burden for a horse and should give all horses of any handicap quality a good sporting chance to win. The turf was grievously depleted by deaths of sportsmen during 1923, and in New York the Metropolitan Jockey Club had more than its share of mourning in the untimely death of Walter C. Edwards, for years its secretary, followed later by the passing of his brother and successor, William P. Edwards. Now death has claimed another from the Metropolitan Jockey Club in Thomas Maher, track superintendent at Jamaica. Thomas Maher in his long and useful service was a valued institution i of racing and there was no man more universally liked and respected by horsemen. B. A. Jones useful stock horse Seth, previously mentioned in these columns for what he has accomplished, promises to continue to send winners to the post. Seths Treasure is one of the two-year-old winners at the Fair Grounds, and his winning effort was one to suggest that he will go on to better things. This gelding is a son of Seth and Tenderbloom, by Sir Dixon, and accordingly a brother to the filly Seths Flower, now a three-year-old. There was no great surprise when the Culver City racing meeting was suspended. The announcement is that it will merely be a suspension until January 26, but it is generally considered that the racing will be abandoned at this new traek. It has been demonstrated frequently that race meetings that are conducted purely for the sport alone are expensive amusements, and they are only possible when sponsored and supported by sportsmen of means who are willing to spend their money for their fun. There must be a revenue to make the sport thrive and prosper, and if that revenue is not there at the gate is must come from some other source. The racing at Tanforan was carried through for its full term only because men of the turf who could well afford it lent their aid and their dollars to the enterprise. They knew when they opened the gates of the California track that it was going to be expensive fun, but they were willing to pay the price. At Culver City the intent may have been the best in the world, but without the financial support that came to Tanforan there was no chance for the sport to pay its way. It would be a big thing to have racing restored to California on the solid footing it once enjoyed, I I and it is a bright hope of the best men of the turf, but such meetings as that at Culver City can hardly be calculated to do much in that restoration.

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