The feud between trainers and racing secretaries is an old and honored one. Assigning high weights can send a good horse out of one town into another and thus hurt attendance and betting handles. Many trainers will nominate a good horse to as many as three stakes on one weekend and then pick the easiest spot. For example, last March Dan Lasater entered Royal Glint in the $100,000 John B. Campbell Handicap at Bowie in Maryland. The horse was assigned 127 pounds, and Lasater chose instead to ship 3,000 miles to accept 124 pounds in the Santa Anita Handicap. Glint won by a nose. "It wasn't the money or the three pounds we were thinking about," Trainer Gordon Potter explained. "It was what would happen later. If you win with 127 pounds, the next step could be 130."
Until the Marlboro, Forego had twice carried 136 pounds unsuccessfully, and some believed Tommy Trotter, the racing secretary in New York, might give Forego 136 pounds or keep him at 135 and drop weight off his opponents.
"I saw the Woodward," Trotter said last week, "and knew how impressively Forego had won. I thought he should go up two pounds and so assigned him 137. You don't call up a trainer and tell him what you have done; you just have the weights mimeographed and let him make up his mind. In the days following the release of the weights, I saw Frank Whiteley several times and we talked. The one thing we didn't talk about was weights."
Trotter was taught his craft by two outstanding race secretaries, Frank E. (Jimmy) Kilroe and the legendary John Blanks Campbell, the man who handicapped Brownie (115 pounds), Bossuet (127) and Wait A Bit (118) into a triple dead heat in the 1944 Carter Handicap. In July of this year Trotter had almost matched Campbell's finish. In the Suburban he assigned Forego 134 pounds. Foolish Pleasure 125 and Lord Rebeau 116, and they finished noses apart, with Foolish Pleasure winning. "That was a race I was proud of," Trotter says.
Before Trotter announced his Marlboro weights, Forego's owner, Martha Gerry, had considered the possibilities. "I was hoping he would give us 136 pounds," she says, "but I knew he would probably put 137 on Forego. Frank made some remarks about not running with more than 135, but he has to make statements like that because he's a trainer. I wanted to run. I was worried about Forego getting hurt or being beaten and then when it rained for three straight days prior to the race I was beside myself. I love Forego and he seems to understand me. He knocks people down and even bites his groom at times, but he eats apples from my hand. I decided to run him with 137 pounds even though he might get beat."
Trotter's two high weights finished inches apart, and the win with 137 now ensures Forego his third consecutive Horse of the Year title. (Kelso won five from 1960 to 1964 but never was forced to carry more than 136 pounds.)
Forego is now $344,783 short of becoming racing's first $2 million winner and deserves the chance to carry on like Kelso and Exterminator. Two weeks from now, in the $300,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup, he will get some respite from racing secretaries when he runs under weight-for-age conditions at Belmont, carrying 126 pounds over 1� miles. The 3-year-old Honest Pleasure, if he starts, will go to the post with 121. Forego will be an overwhelming favorite.
The drama of the big gelding's homestretch drive last Saturday tended to obscure the fact that he was timed in 2:00, only one-fifth of a second off the track record he set last year with 132 pounds over a blistering fast track. Exterminator, by the way, won that Autumn Cup Handicap 55 years ago in 2:05[1/5]. Draw your own conclusions as to where Forego now stands as a runner.
Craig Perret, the jockey on Honest Pleasure, has drawn his. Perret rode a flawless race and was just edged, but it marked the fifth straight time this year the jockey has finished behind Forego in a stake. "That dude has plain got my number," Perret said. "He must think I'm a piece of fried chicken on a plate because he comes along all the time and takes a big bite out of me."