Billy Gilbert, the valet for Bill Shoemaker, inserted 33 one-pound pieces of lead into the 10 pockets of the jockey's saddle some 30 minutes before today's 91st running of the 106,400 Suburban Handicap.
"Shoe weighs only 94 pounds. His saddle weighs nine and there's two pounds for silks and other equipment," Gilbert noted. "I need a crane to carry it out there to Forego, in the paddock. But it all adds up to 138 pounds, right?"
Right. It did. But the 33 pounds of lead which helped added up to a crushing 138 were one or two too many for even Forego to handle in this holiday feature at Belmont Park. The 7-year-old gelding "gave it the old college try," as Shoemaker said later, but drifted out badly in the late stretch and lost by a neck to Quiet Little Table.
Quiet Little Table carried 114 pounds, or 24 fewer than the three-time Horse of the Year was assigned. Nearly On Time finished third under 104 pounds, a neck behind Forego.
Eddie Maple picked up the mount on Quiet Little Table after Co Host, the horse he was scheduled to ride, suffered a minor leg injury this morning.
"We were worried about Forego coming from behind," Maple said. "My horse and I saw him way out there way past the middle of the track. I wasn't sure I'd won."
Even the favorite players in the crowd of 42,869 knew better. They bet Forego down to 1 to 5 on the infield tote board and cheered his every stride from the half-mile pole to the wire but it was obvious the champion - 70 feet out from the rail - has lost by a long neck.
Quiet Little Table's time for the mile and a quarter was 2:03. The gray 4-year-old gelding paid $19.80 straight after his first attempt this year at a distance longer than 1-1/16 miles.
Roseben, Discover and Exterminator, the great weight-carrying thoroughbreds of past history, never won over such a distance under such weight at Forego had today. Forli's first son had won the Metropolitan mile under 133 on Memorial Day and the nassau County handicap under 136 here June 13. Last fall he picked up 137 pounds in the Malboro and downed Honest Pleasure by a head.
"This was the toughest thing he's been asked to try yet," Shoemaker commented. "I thought, leaving the eighth pole, he might win it, but I had to let him drift late. I didn't want to interrupt his momentum and throw him off stride."
Shoemaker hit Forego five times with the whip, all left handed, which figured only to aggravate the drifting-out situation. Forego needs no excuse, however, for the defeat. He gave another superb effort. The 33 lead pads simply took their toll.
Forego pulled himself up unusually quickly after the finish. "He was tired; leg-weary, and he knew what had happened," Shoemaker said.
Forego laid closer to the pace today than he has on many occasions. Nearly On Time, a 3-year-old, cut out early fractions of 24 1/5, :47 2/5 and 1:11 3/5 and was six lengths on top moving to the far turn under Steve Cauthen.
Quiet Little Table held second pace, followed closely by Forego during the long run down the backstretch. Shoemaker asked the favorite to move on the turn, only to see Quiet Little Table take out after Nearly On Time and On The Sly commerce a rally along the rail.
Forego finally began to make his patented rally in early stretch.
Nearly On Time's lead over Quiet Little Table had dwindled to a half-length by the eightn pole, with Forego only two lengths behind the leader. Briefly, for a stride or two inside the sixteenth pole, it looked as though Forego might overcome the light-weights, but Quiet Little Table would not yield and Forego kept drifting out, to within 20 feet of the inside rail.
This Suburban marked Forego's fourth failure to sweep the Handicap Triple Crown series. A nose loss to Foolish Pleasure in last summer's Suburban cost him the title. The Brooklyn here July 23 concludes this triple.