Weight Carrying-What It Means: V, Daily Racing Form, 1943-06-24


view raw text

1 Weight Carrying— What It Means: V. By SALVATOR In the last preceding article of this series attention was called to the strange — yes, passing strange — fact that it is a long-standing custom among our turf writers or at least an influential section of them to decry the ability of our own American thoroughbreds as weight carriers and to glorify foreign ones, particularly British and Australian horses, at their expense. It was also shown that there was no justification for such an amazing and unpatriotic proceeding; as, horse for horse, the American thoroughbred has shown himself unsurpassed as a weight carrier; if not, indeed, the best in the world. In conclusion it was promised that some interesting facts would be set forth in which the much greater advantages of the English and Australian horses, over the American, for carrying high weights successfully, would be cited. This matter has principally to do with the nature of the tracks, or courses, over which their races are run. As is well known, one of the commonest and most persistent criticisms of our American tracks which foreign turfmen make, concern their small size. A favorite adjective used in this connection is "cramped." The majority of them are either "regulation mile" ovals or vary slightly to larger, say a mile and a furlong or but half a furlong. The English and Australian courses, barring a few of the third or fourth class are, in comparison, of vast dimensions; so much so that ours appear to the foreign visitor like miniature affairs — "pony tracks," an Australian turfman termed them; expressing his surprise that a great country like America with its vast spaces, would be satisfied with anything of the kind! We have in reality only one course which, in size, compares at all favorably with the great foreign ones. That is Belmont Park, with its main oval of a mile and a half in circuit and the Widener straightaway, bisecting it and over which the Futurity and other dashes of less than a mile are run. Aqueduct formerly ranked second, with an oval of a bit more than a mile and a quarter, but a few seasons ago, in order to enlarge the grandstand and the parking space there, it was reduced to a mile in size. Arlington Park, Hialeah, Saratoga and Washington Park, each a mile and an eighth, and Lincoln Fields and Hamilton, Ont,. each a mile and a sixteenth, complete the roster of tracks which exceed the "regulation mile." Every one else worth mention is of the stereotyped eight-furlong pattern. To anyone accustomed to the magnitude of such foreign courses as those at Newmarket. Ascot and Epsom, in England; Longchamps, in France; Grunewald, in Berlin, or Flemington and Rand wick, in Australia, to mention only a few that here most concern us, the typical American track seems more like a toy than the "real thing," and, with its combined narrowness in many cases but 75 feet or less, running down to as little as 50 and its small, and often abrupt turns, is regarded as something unfit for first-class horses to race over. Difference in Construction of Tracks Here and Abroad It seems superfluous to remark that the larger the course, the longer its stretches, the bigger and easier its turns and the greater the speed that can be attained over it — likewise the greater the ease with which high weights can be carried for distances both long and short. There then enters the factor of surface and the ground beneath it. And here again we encounter similar great differences. All American courses are prepared ones from which the turj has been removed — in popular parlance "skinned" — and the soil for several inches beneath the surface has been artificially built and is constantly being dragged, scraped and harrowed in order to keep it in condition The great foreign ones are without exception turf courses, covered with short grass kept clipped to the desired length and carefully tended in order to preserve the maximum density, springiness and texture. As a rule, if not universally, the ground beneath this turf has never been ploughed, but remains in its virgin state. The sites having been specially selected because of the excellence of the turf, the lay of the land and the general adaptability for the purpose. Our American courses have, for the most part, been built in spots where their commercial availability promised most, being very frankly "promotions." In many instances the soil with which these ovals are surfaced has been hauled in by the trainload. Such tracks become worn out in a few seasons and require periodical rebuilding if they are to be worthy for high-class horses to perform over. But is this uniformly done? By no means. It is unnecessary to "name names." but it is a well-known fact that numerous courses, including nationally famous ones, have been allowed not only to fall into wretched condition, but to remain in it, season after season. By such means the soundness and safety of the horses, likewise the jockeys, racing over them have been jeopardized in no small degree. It is true that the going over the great foreign courses can, for one reason or another, become affected otherwise than by the rain which falls upon the just and the unjust alike. But this drawback is much ameliorated by the fact that no meetings are held over them in any way comparable to our long-drawn-out ones, lasting for weeks and months, but as a rule are confined to a few days only and, except in rare cases, never extend beyond a week. Moreover, at many of these gigantic plants there are several different courses and when one becomes badly cut up, the horses can transfer to another in good condition. Foreign Courses Not Level Like Those in America The only similar things here in American are the two or three inner turf courses at such plants as Arlington and Washington Park and Hialeah. Racing over them became so popular, when given any adequate showing, that it has been rapidly increasing in recent years. Last season over the inner mile turf course at Arlington Park. Marriage ran a mile and a quarter in 2:0225, under 116 pounds. As the record for the outer and larger dirt course is but 2:01 Vs. it will be seen what results such going can produce when, as is very seldom the case, high-class horses are allowed to perform. There is just one respect in which the great foreign tracks — that is, some of them — may be compared to their disadvantage with our own. The American track is as a rule "dead level" — or very near it — with no grades* hills, sudden ascents or descents, and the like, occurring. This is not true of many of the famous foreign courses, some of which have notable hills, dips, and the like, which are considered trying on anything but a stout-hearted horse. But, on the other hand, there are notable instances of courses which are down hill all the way. Over the latter some phenomenal time is alleged to have been made at distances of a mile and under. There has never been but one course of that kind in America, the old "Toboggan Slide" at Morris Park, which went into history almost 40 years ago. To illustrate concretely what it is desired to bring out, let us take up the most celebrated case of high weight-carrying in modern times, that of Carbine when he won the Melbourne Cup, two miles, under the great impost of 145 pounds, in 1890. This was a truly wonderful performance, which ever since has been everywhere regarded as one of racings monuments. But is that any reason why. as has recently been done, it should be used to belittle the weight-carrying and staying capacities of our best American horses and to denominate them weaklings in comparison? Whirlaway was attacked in savage fashion because he failed to win the Manhattan Handicap under 132 pounds, though he forced the horse that beat him to establish a new American record for a mile and a half, and also because he failed to win the Butler Handicap, under 132, though there again he compelled the winner to break the track record — each time giving the horse that beat him much weight. Carbine performed over the famous Flemington Course, at Melbourne. A diagram of this course will be found on Page 359 of The American Racing Manual for 1943. It gives the details of the way in which the Melbourne Cup is run. The take-off is made at the head of a special chute and the horses have a straight run of over half a mile down the main course before they reach the first easy turn. After rounding this, they have another straightaway run down the back stretch, which is also over half a mile in length. They then circle around another turn, much larger and easier than the first one, into the home stretch, through which they finish over the same strip that they entered from the chute at the start. There are no pronounced grades in this course and the going is described as being "as near perfection as possible." Flemington More Favorable to Weight Carrying Over Distance Whirlaways long races have all been run at Belmont Park. This track is just one mile and a half in circuit. The start in a two-mile race is made on the upper turn and the horses have to race around the best part of it before they reach the home stretch. This stretch, in its entire length, is of 1.980 feet, or 660 feet less than a half mile. The horses then race around the lower turn, which brings them into the back stretch, it being like the home stretch, of 1,980 feet. After traversing It. they have to make the entire circuit of the upper turn which they have already traversed, in its greater part, when getting away. They are then once more in the home stretch, but the run from the top of it to the judges stand is but 1,147 feet, or less than a quarter of a mile. It will be seen that in favorableness for carrying high weights over long dis- tances, such as two miles, there is no comparison between these two tracks. Flemington is immensely better than Belmont Park — and as Belmont Park is immensely better than any other of our American tracks, it will further be seen how unjust it is to compare performances made over them with Flemington as if the basic conditions were equal. Whirlaway as a three-year-old. carrying 114 pounds, was beaten a nose only in The Jockey Club Gold Cup, by Market Wise 114, with the two miles run in the American record time of 3:20%. When Carbine, as a three-year-old, was given but 108 pounds for the Melbourne Cup, he was scratched from the race, the impost being declared an outrage. He was five when he won it, two years later, under 145 pounds. Last season, under 124 pounds, in his four-year-old form, Whirlaway won The Jockey Club Gold Cup, running the two miles in 3:2135, with the sole exception of the time made the year before in that event the best ever made in this country. When Carbine carried 145 pounds two miles his time was 3:284. When Carbine refused to start as a three-year-old under 108 pounds, the race was won by a four-year-old, Mentor, carrying 115 pounds, in 3:3034. If we compare this with either of Whirlaways efforts, it will be seen that he would have left Mentor far down the course, though giving him ten pounds actual weight, when four, and receiving from him but one pound, actual weight, when three, but under the scale conceding him thirteen pounds. When we examine the table of Melbourne Cup winners, we discover that the event has been won by three-year-olds no less than 22 times. But. despite the extravagant claims made for Australian weight carriers, none of these 22 three-year-olds has ever carried weight to exceed 106 pounds, nor run faster than 3:23 A. We observe, therefore, that none of their performances compare with those of Market Wise and Whirlaway when they finished noses apart in The Jockey Club Gold Cup jit 1941, carrying 114 pounds each and running the distance in 3:20%. And this over a course not nearly so well adapted for performances of the kind as the Melbourne Cup course at Flemington.

Persistent Link: https://drf.uky.edu/catalog/1940s/drf1943062401/drf1943062401_26_1
Local Identifier: drf1943062401_26_1
Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800