Discovery

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)

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Chart of the week: Discovery falters under 143 lbs. in the Merchants’ and Citizens’ Handicap, August 1936

The New York Times, 08/09/1936

“Saratoga Springs, N. Y., Aug. 8. – How much thoroughbred muscle and bone can stand is the question to the fore here today as Discovery failed gallantly under 143 pounds in the Merchants’ and Citizens handicap with Middleburg stable’s filly, Esposa, the winner under 100 pounds.

Young Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt sent out his champion son of Display as a sporting gesture to the public even though he believed in New York earlier in the season that the 144 pounds assigned in a handicap was more than any horse should be asked to carry. The biggest crowd of the season, 18,000 saw the race, and cheered Discovery in defeat as much as Esposa in victory.

Discovery was last in a field of five, which ran over a track rough and slow from the rain of the day before yesterday. The combination of weight and track were too much for Discovery, and this is taking nothing from the filly, who did all that was asked, and did it gamely and well.

She finished smartly a length before Count Arthur which was up to take the place by a head from Mantagna. Then came Giant Killer, while Discovery trailed. The mile and three-sixteenths test had a gross value of $11,050, of which $8,500 went to the owner of the winner. Nick Wall had the mount and got the filly home first in 2:00 2-5, very slow time even though Esposa’s was a nice effort.

There have been few racing days this season as satisfying to lovers of the thoroughbred. Despite the popularity of Discovery, and his known prowess as the champion, there were many who had misgivings as to any horse’s ability to carry 143 pounds. Thus the Vanderbilt color-bearer went to the post at 7 to 10, while Esposa was as good as 7 to 1.

Whisk Broom II carried 139 to victory in the Suburban of 1930 and Discovery carried the same impost to be first in last year’s Merchants’ and Citizens. Man o’ War’s top impost was 138 during his racing career. Even Exterminator, mighty cup horse of another day, failed at Latonia over a distance of ground under 140.

In sprint races the weight above 140 can be handled, as Roseben and many other thoroughbreds have shown. But over a distance of ground, poundage beyond 140 takes its toll. The impost today was 140, plus a three-pound penalty for the victory of Discovery at this course on Wednesday. The total of 143 and the track were too much.

The break was even after a brief time at the post and Johnny Bejshak, Discovery’s rider, had to change his mind in the first few seconds. His mount broke smartly, but he did not have his accustomed drive in getting away. For this the lead in the saddle was doubtless to blame.

In any event, instead of having his mount outrun his field to the first turn, as Discovery with such an even break might be expected to do, Bejshak found himself on the outside of four horses as they made the swing for the first turn. Thus he had to change tactics and try to rate behind the pace-setting Mantagna. That fellow stepped away smartly and opened a couple of lengths’ lead.

Most of the riders in most of the races were staying off the rail, and Bejshak took advantage of this when he tried to improve his position in the backstretch. He let the big horse slip down toward the rail, where there was clear sailing and perhaps poorer footing. In any event Discovery began to pick up those in front; by the time the far turn was reached the field had bunched and Discovery was in danger of being in close quarters.

But this never happened. Because Wall gave Esposa the call on the outside she moved up to challenge Mantagna, and Mantagna and Esposa moved away from the others. These events transpired in the run from the far turn to the top of the stretch. As the leaders came to the top of the home lane, it was seen that they were well off the rail and that Discovery had plenty of room to run.

Bejshak had not given up. He cut the corner with Discovery, saved all possible ground, and it was clear that he thought he needed to save ground. Discovery came on only momentarily and then he stopped. He could do no more.

Esposa and Mantagna on the head end had about finished their duel, with the filly the decisive winner. Mantagna tired and could not even withstand Count Arthur, which made his usual late charge and was good enough to be second.” (Bryan Field / The New York Times, 08/09/1936)

Chart of the week: the 1934 Rhode Island Handicap

On the lead at every point of call, Discovery (Display) gave Hadagal (Sir Gallahad (FR)) “the licking of a lifetime” when defeating the colt by two lengths in the Rhode Island Handicap at Narragansett Park on September 3, 1934.

Run before the largest crowd ever assembled at the time at a North American racetrack (53,922), Discovery’s final time of 1:55 for the one and three-sixteenths mile distance not only lowered the track record by four seconds, but shaved three-fifths of a second off of the world record of 1:55 ⅗ set by Sir Barton at Saratoga in August 1920.

CHART - 1934 Rhode Island H. (Boston Globe 1934.09.04)

The Boston Globe, 09/04/1934

PHOTO - 1934 Rhode Island H. (Boston Globe 1934.09.04)

The Boston Globe, 09/04/1934

Chart: 1933 Richard Johnson Stakes (Laurel Park)

The below is a chart of the 1933 Richard Johnson Stakes (6f) for 2-year-olds at Laurel Park, won by the Chicle (FR) colt Chicstraw (name misspelled twice in chart below) by a half-length over Wise Daughter, with Discovery and Cavalcade not far behind.

While the names of Wise Daughter, Discovery, and Cavalcade are the ones which immediately stick out, the multiple stakes winning Chicstraw himself was of a high-blooded pedigree, being a half-sibling to the (yet to be born at the time) Reine-de-Course mare Thorn Apple (by Jamestown).

Richard Johnson S. 1933 (Wash Post 1933.10.08) The Washington Post, 10/08/1933

As no one could know at the time what the then 2-year-old Cavalcade’s future held, the crowd at Laurel that day was unknowingly treated to two Kentucky Derby winners in residence, as in the race immediately following the Richard Johnson, the reigning Derby winner Brokers Tip would finish last in a 1 1/16 mile claiming race. The 1933 Kentucky Derby would be the only victory in a fourteen race career for Brokers Tip.

Brokers Tip LRL claiming 1933 (Wash Post 1933.10.08) The Washington Post, 10/08/1933