Weight a Big Factor In Gotham

By Ed DeRosa

One of racing’s great ironies is the common lament, “I don’t regard weight to handicap races” (or some such).

In today’s parlance, “to handicap a race” usually means to figure out who’s going to win (or what chance each horse has of winning), but the origin of the term has to do with assigning weight to horses in a race.

Weight mattered then and it does today. You’ll never hear me say “weight doesn’t matter” not only because I understand physics but also because every horseman I spoke to in eight years at Thoroughbred Times thought it mattered.

The question today’s handicapper must ask is how much it matters. Even one pound can make a difference, but unless you think the race is likely to be decided by a nose it probably won’t. But weight affects more than top speed. It’s a factor in acceleration and maneuverability as well. I.e., the bigger the weight shift and/or bigger the impost, the more likely it is to contribute to a troubled trip.

One study I’d like to undertake with all the great Brisnet.com data out there is to match weight with the running styles found in our Ultimate Past Performances and other products (e.g. “E” [early], “E/P” [early/presser], “P” [presser], and “S” [sustained {closer}]) and see if more weight affects speed horses and closers differently as well as the effect on synthetic and turf races, which more typically feature late runs.

That will have to wait, though, as the goal today is to figure out how the extra seven pounds could affect Withers Stakes winner Samraat and Don Rickles-Miracle Wood dual Stakes winner Extrasexyhippzster in a Gotham Stakes (click for free Brisnet.com Ultimate PPs with comments) in which nine of their opponents will carry 116 pounds with Futurity Stakes winner In Trouble the lone colt to tote 120.

Uncle Sigh was just one length behind Samraat in the Withers but now gets seven pounds from that foe. That seems punitive to me in a race for $500,000 that could make or break a horse’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands chances.

I’m not opposed to picking horses giving weight, but the issue in the Gotham is that both Samraat and Extrasexyhippzster figure to take money, and I definitely view their imposts as a negative. On the plus side, they’re both drawn well (outside posts [8+] have won 16% of races going 1 1/16 miles on the inner with an impact value of 1.60) and “E” or “E/P” running styles, as Samraat and Extrasexyhippzster are, respectively, have won a combined 58% of races at the track and distance this meeting.

But they will have company on the front end from the inside probably from the word go, and while extra weight plus a wide trip is neither sexy nor hip, it could ster the pot enough to set up for a closer.

I.e. I recognize that a closing running style is a handicap just as extra weight is but given all the dynamics of the race (including expected prices), I prefer Financial Mogul and Harpoon in this spot.

The toughest question for the 348 people still alive for $1-million in the TwinSpires.com Road to the Kentucky Derby SHOWdown game is not who to pick to win but who to pick to show. It’s a deep field, which is my way of saying a horse can run well and still be only 3rd or 4th.

If I were able to play then I’d be one of the 625 people tied with four correct after tabbing General a Rod in the Fountain of Youth but whiffing with Rise Up in the Risen Star last week. For those who are there, that’s not a bad place to be, as you’re still eligible to win Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks tickets as well as a share in the $10,000 consolation prize pool if you hit the Derby.

So my pick to go five-for-six is HARPOON.

Also of note is there are four Twitter users still alive in the @twinspires #tsSHOWdown game for $500. Check the hashtag to see who @cheryl_sz, @JBOswald68, @fakemaven, and @rsamaroo46 pick in the Gotham!

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