On Oct. 22, 37 years and 19 days after the Brooklyn Dodgers' Ralph Branca gave up the Shot Heard 'Round the World to Bobby Thomson of the New York Giants, a highly regarded 2-year-old pacer named Kassa Branca broke stride in the first division of the New Jersey Futurity at Freehold Raceway and finished seventh. Kassa Branca is named for owner Douglas Kass and Branca, who is a friend of his. The colt went off at 1-9 and greatly disappointed one bettor, identified by track officials only as a man carrying a leather gym bag, who placed a $150,000 show bet on Kassa Branca.
Had Kassa Branca finished in the money, he would have paid the minimum $2.10 to show, which means the "bridgejumper," as such bettors are known, stood to gain $7,500. He should have known better, though, than to bet on a Branca in October.
SILKS THAT ARE SMOOTHER THAN SILK
Jockeys' Wardrobes and, for that matter, thoroughbred racing may never be the same. Traditional silks are giving way to Aeroform Silks, shirts made of a special fabric that is both formfitting and waterproof. The wonder is that it took so long. Not only do the old silks—which are actually made of nylon—catch the wind and create a significant amount of drag, but they also absorb water, or "rain weight," as it is called in jockey parlance.
Aeroform Silks were developed by Rhonda Allen, a sculptor who is married to Joe Allen, a successful thoroughbred owner. While looking at some photos of her husband's horses five years ago, she noticed that the silks were blowing up like balloons. She thought jockeys might benefit from more aerodynamic clothing, so she had tight silks made for Richard Migliore, the jockey of the Aliens' filly, Make The Magic. The horse won her first three starts.
Still, Rhonda lacked scientific evidence, so she went to New York University physicist Dr. Richard Brandt. Said Brandt, "Initially I thought, How important could a few ripples in a jockey's suit be? But at those speeds, 38 miles an hour, the wind force goes up dramatically. We performed wind-tunnel tests on dummies, and all other things being equal, we calculated that a jockey with formfitting silks would gain one inch every second on a rider with traditional silks. In a one-mile race, the difference could be eight feet."
Working with Rhonda Allen, Danskin, the leotard company, began manufacturing Aeroform Silks, and word spread throughout the racing community, which is usually slow to change. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has 14 horses entered in this week's Breeders' Cup, swears by the new outfits, as does jockey Angel Cordero. "When I first wore the new silks, the other jockeys made fun of me," says Cordero. "But I always think about the wind when I ride. You've got to take anything that gives you an edge or you're a bobo."