Experimental Free Handicap

Red Rain (126 lbs.) tops the 1935 Experimental Handicap

Following a brief suspension of the Experimental Handicap in 1934 due to the retirement of Walter Vosburgh (several outlets did publish their own unofficial rankings), the rankings resumed in 1935 under new Jockey Club handicapper Jack Campbell and have continued uninterrupted to the present day.


“Horsemen of thoroughbred persuasion, as well as lovers of racing, are looking forward to Jack Campbell’s Experimental Handicap for our two-year-olds, which is likely to be published shortly in “The Racing Calendar.”

It will be the official handicapper’s rating of the juveniles of 1935 along the lines of the Free Handicap in England. Walter S. Vosburgh instituted the Experimental Handicap in this country three or four years ago after a number of us had been pleading for it over a stretch of time.

It has been a distinct value for those who like to confirm their own figures, or, in any case, have a means for comparison, while a rating always is popular with the enthusiasts of any sport. The Experimental Handicap is more eagerly anticipated than usual this season because the two-year-olds have been so evenly matched, with no actual standout.

With only three or four stakes of prominence to be run before the season ends in the North, no changes of any importance in the present rating are likely. One, of course, must have the honor, always a questionable one, of heading the list at top weight, and it will be interesting to know on which one Jack Campbell places this distinction. So far as can be judged, there are at least six candidates for the place.

Lester Doctor expressed the opinion on Friday that J. E. Widener’s Brevity was the best, in his opinion, on his brilliant race in the Champagne Stakes, when he beat the Wheatley Stable’s Snark a head. His guess, no doubt, is as good as any, even though Brevity started only three times.

In my opinion, seven of our two-year-olds are not more than two pounds apart. These seven are Brevity, Marshall Field’s Tintagel, H. P. Headley’s Hollyrood, C. V. Whitney’s Red Rain, the Bomar Stable’s Grand Slam, the Coldstream Stud’s Coldstream and Morton L. Schwartz’s Bold Venture.” (George Daley / New York Herald Tribune, 11/17/1935)


List of weights for the 1935 Experimental Handicap:

126 lbs. – Red Rain
124 lbs. – Tintagel; Grand Slam; Hollyrood; Coldstream
123 lbs. – Brevity
122 lbs. – Snark
121 lbs. – White CockadeNed Reigh
120 lbs. – Bold Venture; Crossbow IIBow to MeThe Fighter; Sun Teddy
118 lbs. – Postage Due; Bien Joli; Delphinium; Memory Book
116 lbs. – Forever Yours (f); Triumphant; Jean Bart; Bright Plumage; Maeriel
115 lbs. – Split Second (f); Valevictorian; Infidox; Wise Duke; Black Highbrow
114 lbs. – Deliberator; Little Miracle (f); Beanie M. (f); Parade Girl (f); Seabiscuit
113 lbs. – Banister; Granville
112 lbs. – Bright and Early; Sparta (f); Clocks; Go Home; Mansco; Bow and Arrow; Galsac; Sangreal; Bright Light; Tatterdemalion
110 lbs. – Dnieper; Fair Knightess (f); Brush Hook; Booming Guns; Nedrow; Pharosay; Teufel; Empty Bottle; Mr. Bones
109 lbs. – Challephen
108 lbs. – Proclivity; Pelerine (f); Lemont; Billie Bane; Erin Torch; James City; He Did; Termination; Higher Cloud
106 lbs. – Danise M. (f); High Fleet (f); Maid of Perth (f); Sea Cradle (f); Thatagal (f); Tinkling Brook (f); Gleeman; Pullman; Piccolo; Wha Hae; Transporter; Boston Pal; Down Under; Indian Broom
105 lbs. – Toration; Winter Sport; Mag Mell (f); Ste. Louise (f); Victorious Ann (f); Tony’s Wife (f); Valse (f); Lovely Girl (f); Little Nymph (f); Neap; Faust; Her Reigh; Jair; Jay Jay; Redley; My Colin; Speed to Spare; Fair Stein (f)
104 lbs. – Knowing
102 lbs. – Sir Quest; Grog; War Emblem

*(f) Filly

Overall, sixty-three sires were represented among the one hundred horses weighted, with a total of twenty-two stallions having sired more than one horse on the list. As he did in the rankings of 1933, Sir Gallahad III once again led the list, this time with five horses listed. St. Germans (GB), Toro, and Victorian were next with four, followed by Blue Larkspur, Bull Dog (FR), Diavolo, Whichone, and Wise Counsellor with three. Bud Lerner, Display, Epinard (FR), Hard Tack, High Cloud, Jock, Man o’ War, Pharamond (GB), Polymelian (GB),  Royal Minstrel (GB), Sickle (GB), Sun Flag, and The Porter each had two horses make the list.


“Jack Campbell, official handicapper of The Jockey Club, puts C. V. Whitney’s Red Rain in the proud place at the top in his Experimental Handicap for two-year-olds of the season just closed.

The New York Times, 12/16/1935.

This handicap, which corresponds to the Free Handicap of England, is published in the current issue of “The Racing Calendar,” official organ of the turf’s governing body. Campbell assigns 126 pounds to Red Rain and thereby rates him as the best of his age in training this year.

As a further indication of the evenness of the juveniles of 1935, four two-year-olds are rated two pounds away from Red Rain at 124 each. These are Marshall Field’s Tintagel, winner of The Futurity; Hal Price Headley’s Hollyrood, winner of the Pimlico Futurity; Bomar Stable’s Grand Slam, that beat Tintagel in the Arlington Futurity; and Coldstream Stud’s Coldstream, that ran a dead heat with Red Rain in the Saratoga Special of six furlongs at Saratoga Springs early last August.

Campbell’s ratings of ninety-nine two-year-olds of both sexes are of particular interest to all followers of thoroughbred racing, chiefly as a barometer of that expert opinion which may guide respective owners and trainers of the juveniles involved through the treacherous three-year-old racing seas of 1936. …” (W. J. Macbeth / New York Herald Tribune, 12/16/1935)

First Minstrel (126 lbs.) tops the 1933 Experimental Handicap

While The Jockey Club’s Experimental Free Handicap (or “Experimental Handicap” as it was initially known) originated in 1933 and has been released annually since 1935, there’s a dearth of easily accessible information on the internet with lists of horses weighted in the earlier years. It’s not difficult to locate the highweights, or weights assigned to notable horses, but it can be challenging to easily find lists of all horses who were weighted each year.

For that reason, I’ve decided to start a series listing all horses weighted in the Experimental Handicap/Experimental Free Handicap on a year-by-year basis from its inception in 1933 through possibly 1965 or so.


Weights assigned by Walter S. Vosburgh for the 1933 Experimental Handicap (2-year-olds of 1933):

126 lbs. – First Minstrel
125 lbs. – Cavalcade
124 lbs. – Singing Wood; High Quest
122 lbs. – Soon Over (GB); Mata Hari (f); Spy Hill
121 lbs. – Elylee
120 lbs. – HadagalBazaar (f)
119 lbs. – Red Wagon; High Glee (f)
118 lbs. – Wise Daughter (f); Far Star (f); Sir Thomas
117 lbs. – Discovery; Roustabout; Jabot (f); Slapdash (f); Black Buddy; Observant; Chicstraw
116 lbs. – Trumpery; Sgt. Byrne; Glendye; Peace Chance
115 lbs. – Kawagoe; Revere; Gay Monarch
114 lbs. – Blue Again; Collateral; Rhythmic (f); Domino Player; Blue for Boys (f)
112 lbs. – Trey; Bonanza; Proud Girl (f); Dreel; Chance Flight; Some Pomp (f); Fortification; Kieva (f)
111 lbs. – Sir Ten; Brown Jack; Agrarian; Holystone
110 lbs. – National Anthem; Propagandist; Bright Haven; Loggia (f); Earnings; Cuirassier; Greyglade (f); Miss Merriment (f)
109 lbs. – Hildur Prince; Moira’s Chief; General Parth; Spoilt Beauty (f); Vicar
108 lbs. – Calycanthus; R. Pinchot; Sonrisa (f)
107 lbs. – Easy Come (f); Wrackdale; Bataille (f); Speed Girl (f)
106 lbs. – Sassafras; Stand Pat; The Triumvir; Rose Cross; Kepi
105 lbs. – Sun Tempest; Front; Maine Chance; Fleam (f); Wise Nat; Hawk Moth (f)
104 lbs. – Yap (f); Dessner; Inflate (f); Kings Minstrel; Sainted
103 lbs. – Captain Argo; Flabbergast (f)

*(f) Filly

Overall, fifty-five sires were represented among the eighty-four horses weighted, with a total of fifteen stallions having sired more than one horse on the list. Sir Gallahad III lead the list with seven horses listed, with First Minstrel’s sire Royal Minstrel (GB) next with five, followed by John P. Grier with four, and Chicle (FR), Man o’ War, Sickle (GB), and St. Germans (GB) with three. Chatterton, General Lee, High Time, Pompey, Stimulus, The Porter, Wise Counsellor, and Wrack (GB) each had two horses make the list.


New York Herald Tribune, 12/17/1933.

“In the opinion of Water S. Vosburgh, official handicapper of The Jockey Club, Mrs. Payne Whitney’s First Minstrel is entitled to first rating among the two-year-old colts of 1933 and Charles T. Fisher’s Mata Hari stands foremost of the season’s juvenile fillies.

Mr. Vosburgh, generally recognized as America’s leading authority on thoroughbred form, in the December 15 issue of “The Racing Calendar,” the official publication of The Jockey Club, for the first time classified the most prominent two-year-olds that raced in the United States and Canada this year. He calls it “the experimental handicap for two-year-olds of 1933.”

Such a rating, known as the “future handicap,” has been in vogue in England for more than a century and naturally commands the respect not only of bookmakers who lay future prices on most of the English classics but also of horsemen and players generally.

Mr. Vosburgh’s handicap should be particularly interesting to the various operators who make winter books on the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, late closing spring classics for three-year-olds exclusively.

First Minstrel, which won the Sanford and the Junior Champion among other less important victories, is given the post of honor of 126 pounds. This is one pound higher than the rating allowed Mrs. Dodge Sloane’s Cavalcade, winner of the Hyde Park, and two pounds more than Mrs. John Hay Whitney’s Singing Wood, which won The Futurity. Mrs. Slone’s High Quest, which won the Futurity Trial, is rated even with Singing Wood at 124 pounds.

Yet the Dixiana filly Mata Hari, which follows at 122 pounds, the same notch at which are placed Mrs. Payne Whitney’s colts, Soon Over and Spy Hill, really ranks much higher when her sex allowance is taken into consideration. Two-year-old fillies are allowed three pounds in the scale and three-year-old fillies five pound up to September 1; three pounds thereafter. So Mr. Vosburgh’s rating on a two-year-old basis really places Mata Hari second with Cavalcade at 125 pounds, one less than the top weight, First Minstrel. With her five pounds’ allowance as a prospective candidate for leading three-year-old honors, Mata Hari would be elevated to the peak (127), one pound ahead of First Minstrel.

E. R. Bradley’s filly Bazaar, a sensation at Saratoga where she won the Hopeful, is rated two pounds below Mata Hari, but her sex allowance as a three-year-old would move her right behind First Minstrel alongside Cavalcade. Many are likely to disagree with Mr. Vosburgh on his ratings of other leading fillies, particularly of Far Star, a stablemate of Mata Hari, which her stable connections are supposed to consider the better of the two. Far Star and W. S. Burton’s Wise Daughter are both placed two pounds below Bazaar and four below Mata Hari. C. V. Whitney’s High Glee, which beat Bazaar in the Matron, is rated a pound better than these two.

In view of the disappointing performances at Belmont and in Maryland after he had won the Champagne, Warren Wright’s Hadagal seems generously treated with ninth ranking at two pounds better than Sir Thomas, which ran Singing Wood to a head in The Futurity and which would undoubtedly have won had he not lost several lengths for Tony Pascuma in jumping a path across the main track midway of the chute.” (W. J. Macbeth / New York Herald Tribune, 12/17/1933)