Discusses Handicaps and Handicapping, Daily Racing Form, 1914-02-20


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DISCUSSES HANDICAPS AND HANDICAPPING. W S. Vosburgh, handicapper for the Jockey Club, lias "written the following for publication: "Our American racing public has been badly educated as regards racing generally and in no respect mor so than in respect of handicaps. They seem to be possessed with the idea that the top weight alone has anv right to win. We all know the intent of a handicap is to so equalize the horses by means of weights that the poorest racer has an equal chance with the best. But if a light-weighted horse wins the public rather resent his success, and then it is suddenly discovered that he was thrown in, pitchforked and other expressions of ill temper. Of course, this is because they have not backed him vou never hear complaints except from losers and tliis illustrates the fact that the interests of racing and betting are not always identical. "Moreover, the American idea of handicapping seems based on the assumption that racing is an exact science, which it is not. We have read articles on handicapping in which so many puunds are allowed for so many lengths, half-lengths or heads. If this were true, it would only need a mathematician to make tlie weights he need never have seen a race or a race liorse. As a matter of fact, a length may mean one pound or twelve pounds it depends upon how the horses finish. We often read in reports of races that a liorse won easily, when, in fact, not one race in ten is won easily. The natural tendency is to exaggerate, to exalt the winner. He may be all out at the finish, but he is recorded as having won easily, and this causes many who credit such reports to lose their money the next time such horses start. "Another curious custom has- grown in recent years. It is in describing as huudicappers a class of men who employ their time in reducing tlie vagaries of animal locomotion to the mathematical certainly of a science. These men figure on the chances of horses for the puriosos of betting. Why they should be called handicappers it is not easy to say, for none of them ever framed a handicap for which horses competed. To distinguish them from the person who makes the handicaps, the latter is called the otlicial handicapper. But why ollicial . As well speak of the otlicial starter, or the otlicial clerk of scales, for the use of the prefix otlicial presupposes that there are other handicappers. starters or clerks of scales, when in fact there are no others than those who do the work. It is about on a par with the custom of speaking of the winning liorse leading under the wire, when there is i:o wire but there is a winning iost. Such misapplication of terms is a pretty certain indication that the persons using them lack Iwth racing knowledge and racing spirit thej havent the smell of Newmarket. "There are people who affect to sneer at handicaps and clamor for weight-for-age races. But it is impossible to interest the public in one-sided races, such as weight-for-age races usually produce. Hence, the handicap becomes the only means of equalizing horses and insuring better contests particularly when racing is catering to the patronage of the public. Comparisons with the sport in England do not apply. There they have a large number of owners who are men of wealth and who are willing to race for their own money. They are not so dependent iiKn public support as we are here, and the willingness of their owners to make many and heavy subscriptions enables them to offer weight-for-age races of such great value that horses are prepared especially for those races. "Nor from the staudoiiit of tin improvement of the breed of horses are weight-for-age races to be preferred to handicaps except in the case of two-year-olds or spring events for three-year-olds. A liorse which wins an important handicap witli high weight, conceding many pounds to his field, has a better certificate of merit than one which at weight-for-age has beaten two or three horses twenty-live pounds Ids inferiors a mere procession iu which he has never been called upon to extend himself. "The Epsom Derby is the greatest of all weight-for-age races. Yet. in the past twenty-three years only one winner of the Derby Rock Sand, was sired by a previous winner Sainfoin. There have been KE5 winners of the Derby and only twenty-four were sired by Derby winners. It is about the same with the St. Leger in twenty-three years only four winners were siretl by previous winners. Thus, as a breeding standard the ridiculous Figure System, for instance the Derby and St. Leger will not stand the test when carefully looked into, for certainly the Derby and St. Leger winners when they enter the stud are better patronized both as to number and quality of the mares sent to them than any class of horses. "On the other hand, some of Englands most celebrated sires have won their credentials to fame in handicaps. Isonomy won the Cambridgeshire, the Manchester Cup and the Great Ebor all handicaps. Sterling won the Liverpool Cup and was sceond in one of the best Cambridgeshires on record. Bend Or won the City and Suburban. Roselicrry won both Cesarewitch and Cambridgeshire. Hampton won the Northumberland Plate and sired more Derby winners than any modern Derby winner. Sfaster Kildare won the City and Suburban and Liverpool Cup. .Marco won the Cambridgeshire. Amphion won the Jubilee Handicap. Minting won the Jubilee Handicap. .Mellon won the Livertiool Cup. Vedette won the Ebor Handicap. Barcaldine won the Northumberland Plate. Adventurer won the City and Suburban. Sundfidge was twice winner of the De Warrcnne Handicap the last time with l.!7 lbs. These horses have completely outbred the Derby winners of recent years. "In conclusion, it will he seen by reference to the races quoted that a really high-class horse is capable of conceding a vast amount of weight to an inferior horse over the middle distances which constitute tho real test. Over longer distances, weight will tell witli greater effect, for there the inferior one having less nerve force, or speed, is aide to rate aioug until the weight begins to tell on the crack. Of course, racing is not an exact science there are too many incidents in a race to permit of its being so the slightest Incident will upset the most carefully prepared handicap; yet, the handicap is the nearest approach to scientific racing that has been devised as it enables us to prove the difference between horses whicli at weight-for-age is only a guess."

Persistent Link: https://drf.uky.edu/catalog/1910s/drf1914022001/drf1914022001_1_8
Local Identifier: drf1914022001_1_8
Library of Congress Record: https://lccn.loc.gov/unk82075800