“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)