Before the Whitney, Mrs. Gerry had been receiving letters concerning the weights her horse had been forced to carry. "Many of them," she said, "are copies of angry letters that have been sent to Tommy Trotter." Mrs. Gerry is not a complainer, but she did say, "Forego lost his last race by 11 lengths carrying 137 pounds, and Trotter dropped him only a pound for the Whitney. That doesn't seem fair." When Whiteley was asked about the pound drop, he said, "Are we talking about 16 ounces? Yeah, that's one hell of a drop—16 ounces."
Yet another old racing expression ("You can't get any weight off by staying in the barn") could have been a telling factor in the decision to race Forego at Saratoga. Mrs. Gerry and Whiteley may have figured that if he won, that would be fine—and if he lost, that would be fine, too. After all, now that he has sustained two crushing defeats, Forego finally seems likely to get the kind of weight drop that could allow him to return to his old, majestic form. Of course, if Forego is wearing out, the decision to race him on an unfavorable track under so much weight could hardly have been a good one for the horse.
That is a perfect example of the quandary that the owners of handicap horses and racing secretaries find themselves in. Many horsemen feel that Forego's weights should be dropped along with those of his competition. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt says, "There used to be jockeys around who could make 100 pounds, or even into the 90s. I hear all the time that there just aren't enough riders around today who can get that low and, therefore, the weights must stay up. I think it should be the responsibility of the trainers to find such riders. Also, Forego has to start out his year in the handicaps, and if he wins, his weights necessarily go up. There just aren't enough weight-for-age races left, and the few that are come up in the fall."
Thus in attempting a comeback Forego will not have the luxury of a weight-for-age race until mid-October. "He'll run in the Woodward Handicap on Sept. 17 if we like the weights Trotter gives us," says Whiteley. "If not, we ain't going to run. Then we'd run in the Marlboro Cup after that. I'm sure that Seattle Slew's people took note of Forego's losses. But remember that Forego loves the fall. He doesn't like hot weather, and it has been hot before these losses."
Although Whiteley feels that Seattle Slew will face Forego in the Woodward and in the Marlboro Cup, setting up a dramatic fall racing season for Belmont Park, he may be disappointed. Slew's co-owner, Jim Hill, says, "We feel his next race is the second most important of his life, right behind the Belmont. We probably made a mistake by going to Hollywood Park, where he was beaten by J. O. Tobin. But that's behind us now. If Slew comes back and wins a race against 3-year-olds, then we might take on Forego in the Jockey Club Gold Cup at weight for age."
Nearly On Time was at the other end of the scale in the Whitney. His 103 pounds made him the lightest-weighted horse to win the race in the 23 years it has been contested as a handicap. That fact undoubtedly helped Cauthen get his record win, which surpassed the 299 victories Jorge Velasquez had in New York in 1976. It was also the second-richest win of Cauthen's young life. He should have many more like it, but because of the wear and tear of handicap racing, Forego may not. Each race could be his last, and one more defeat like the one he sustained in the Whitney would demean him. Mrs. Gerry knows—or, at least, she should—that money records are quickly forgotten in racing. But memories of horses that retire while they are still thought of as champions are not.