Weighing In: Top Flight Handicap Draws Attractive Field Thoroughbred Owner Asks About Trotters Do Methods, Daily Racing Form, 1954-06-09


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W E I G H I N G IN By EyAN shipman BELMONT PARK, Elmont, L. I., N. Y., June 8. No division can boast a more representative field this season than the choice group of fillies and mares who will dispute Wednesdays featured Top Flight Handicap, this mile and a sixteenth test appearing singularly rich in quality. As is customarily cne case wicn a nanaicap arranged by that old master, John Blanks Campbell, the weights for the Top Flight have been dealt out so cunningly that every owner may flatter himself with possessing a royal chance for top honors, but our own fairly disinterested impression for what it is worth is that the veteran official has,, on this occasion, been a trifle harsh with , several of the tedders, such at Atalanta with 126, and Sunshine Nell and La Corredora sharing an impost of 125 pounds, and also a shade indulgent to several of the lightweights, notably Valadium tossed in here with the feather of 108, and even Nothirdchance, who will carry 115. The obyious answer invited by this suggestion is that we are quite at liberty to profit from any mistake deduced here, . a challenge that when accepted in "the past has usually been instructive, rather than rewarding. On current form, and even if their burdens appear somewhat excessive, Sunshine Nell and La Corredora should show well. This pair, both deservedly popular locally, have now had enough racing this season to be extra sharp, and neither fine mare has ever been known to shun a task just "because it looked difficult. Other eminent possibilities on Wednesday at the weights are Lavender Hill, Home-Made, Emardee and the inconsistent, but occasionally capable, Gainsboro Girl. Altogether, this shapes up as one of the prettiest contests that have so far graced the rich and varied Belmont program. Top Flight Handicap Draws Attractive Field Thoroughbred Owner Asks About Trotters Do Methods of One Sport Apply to Other? Difference of Function Rules Conformation Charley Silvers, the Miami owner whose large string of thoroughbreds campaigning on this circuit is headed by me exueueiiu mare .uavenaer am, ana tne snarp sprinter, Ruthred, has been a frequent visitor of late to the night harness races at Roosevelt Raceway, where he has been keenly interested by the performances of the good trotter, Blitzen Up, and other members of his friend, Henry Fal-sos stable. In particular, Silvers is impressed by the fact that the trotters and pacers prepared and driven byoung Richard Thomas for Falso appear to remain "racing sound" throughout a long season, excuses seldom if ever being invoked for any of them on the score of being "off" or "ouchy," or any one of the quantity of reasons that are always on tap to explain the absence from competition or the poor performance of our own more fragile horses. The Florida owners questions on this subject were obviously prompted by the thought that thoroughbred trainers might profitably borrow the methods employed by experienced harness horsemen, but this columnist, who has some intimate knowledge of both breeds, has arrived at the conclusion that any broad generalization concerning them is likely to prove deceptive. With the American thoroughbred and with the standardbred as well, prevalent practice is based upon the conditions of the sport, these differing to such an extent that the methods of one type of horseman can be no more than vaguely suggestive to the other. AAA If we were asked, for instance, why it is that the modern trotter appears to be a sounder animal than the modern thoroughbred, our answer would necessarily be complex,. including a number of factors ofalmost equal importance. To begin with, the trotter has stouter underpinning than the runner,. because the trotter has been bred to race in heats, the single dash being strictly an innovation during the last decade. Another reason is that the racing strip at harness tracks has an absolutely regu lar, uniform surface. Granted that there is an almost complete absence of "cushion," the "hardness" is more than compensated for by the smooth, "pool table" quality of the footing, the great and ever-present danger to thoroughbreds being the sudden strain or shock imposed by inequalities underfoot. A third reason has to do with speed. Trotting or pacing being artificial gaits, speed is under the control of the driver to an extent that is impossible with a thoroughbred, the latter always inclined to give more instead of less than actual condition would call for. Finally, as a class, harness horse grooms have always been infinitely superior to their counterparts at thoroughbred tracks, giving time and attention, and applying a skill to the care and treatment of their charges that place them definitely in the ranks of craftsmen or artisans, rather than of chance labor. AAA Differentiating between the good trainer of .harness horses and the good thoroughbred horseman, the former must, first of all, be an expert in the matter of balancing and gait. In an absolute sense, the gait of a trotter or pacer is. the creation of the trainer, rare indeed being the standardbred who can travel at top speed without important changes having been made with the angle of his feet, or the addition to his harness of equipment prevent- Continued on Page Thirty-Eight WEIGHING IN I By EVAN SUTPMAN Continued from Page Forty-Eight ing interference. Nature, on the other hand, has balanced the thoroughbred, elemen-.tary care being all that his feet require. Judging from our own observation, we would say that thoroughbred horsemen pay more attention to condition, and probably know more about bringing their charges to a "fine edge" than do their counterparts of the harness turf, the reason being that they are accustomed to deal with a more sensitive, more highly strung animal, the very nature of the task required, together with the effect of intimate surroundings, provoking a nervous tension in the thoroughbred that is generally absent in the trotter or pacer. Leaving aside the harness horse trainer being his own jockey and exercise boy, we, nevertheless will say that this first-hand intimacy with his charges does extend his control over the horse to a degree that must necessarily be the envy of those who have to delegate this authority to youngsters of decidedly uncertain ability. AAA Superficially, it may be said that the modern trotter more nearly resembles the thoroughbred type than did his ancestors. Actually, the educated eye is impressed by differences in structure rather than similarities. These differences, accumulating through successive generations of intensive breeding for type, have been imposed by function, and they go far toward explaining why unsoundness attacks the trotter and the thoroughbred from separate directions. As a matter of physics, strain imposed on the thoroughbred, both by the nature of his gait and the weight of the rider, is in front, while a trotter, with no burden poised on his withers, and with his front legs acting merely as guides, is propelled by the powerful action of his quarters and hind legs. Illustrating the absence of strain in front, it may be said that trotters or pacers rarely if ever "buck their shins," while that is such a common ailment with young thoroughbreds that trainers are always uneasy until it occurs and is out of the way. By the same token, bowed tendons are far more common with thoroughbreds than with standardbreds. When the latter do bow, it is usually as a result of a defect of gait causing interference rather than a strain bearing on front legs. To all this, a thoroughbred horseman like Charley Silvers may say, "Why then cant . we work our horses to sulky or cart, keeping the weight off front legs, except in actual competition?" The answer, of course, is that it can be done, and has been done, but hitching a thoroughbred to a cart is not going to change the circumstances of racing, and first, last and all the time, it is speed, speed and again speed that breaks down horses.

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