Remembered is the veteran newspaper columnist who praised a racing secretary for having, he thought, handicapped a Saturday feature so smartly. The eight horses entered finished in the order by weight they carried -- 126, 122, 118, 117, 115, 114, 114 and 112 pounds -- with 27 lengths separating the victor from the trailer.
The highweight won the event by eight lengths.
"Some people," the racing secretary muttered, "will never learn. When I'm right, they say I'm wrong; when I'm wrong, they say I'm right."
Indeed, a racing secretary's task when weighting eight horses for a handicap is to try to bring about an eight-horse dead heat. He puts the most weight on the best horse and the lowest weight on the poorest horse in an attempt to create a good betting attraction out of what, otherwise, would be a dull affair.
Some segments of the racing public still can't grasp that fat, apparently, judging by the response to the job Tommy Trotter has done with Forego in New York this season. And that's unfortunate because Trotter continues to be one of the finest handicappers of our time.
A racing secretary has two ways to go after he is named to his position: he can be a handicapper or he can be a politician. New York has offered excellent examples of each in recent years.
When Kenny Noe weighted Secretariat for the great 3-year-old's only appearance in a handicap, he cooped out. Noe assigned Secretariat 24 pounds for that first running of the Marlboro Cup on Sep. 15, 1973. Stablemate Riva Ridge was assigned 127 pounds, with 126 on Key To The Mint and Cougar II. Noe was so afraid of losing Secretariat from the sponsored race that he extended the horse's owner and trainer a special invitation they couldn't refuse.
Trotter has treated Forego differently. Much differently.
The three-time Horse of the Year made valiant attempts to win the Handicap Triple Crown in 1974, 1975, 1976 and again this spring. Each time, Trotter's weights denied him the distinction. This year's failure really rattled Forego's fan club.
"Forego's having to carry 138 pounds in the Suburban was a brutal action on Trotter's part," a woman from Warrenton, Va., wrote.
Well Trotter's weight for the Suburban -- after Forego won the Metropolitan Mile by two lengths carrying 133 pounds -- were so inept that the first three horses reached the finish line on a line, necks apart. Quiet Little Table held on to win the 1 1/4-mile event over the 7-to-10 favorite, with Nearly On Time a bangup third.
Had Forego not drifted out past the middle of the strip during the stretch run, he might have won. Three weeks later, when Forego carried 137 pounds in the Brooklyn, he suffered one of the lengthiest defeats in his history. Great Contractor scored by 11 lengths, but Forego earned second money, ahead of 11 rivals.
The argument can be made that the erratic Great Contractor got in the race a little light, but was Noe's assessment of Forego so wrong in realtion to the overall field?
When Trotter kept Forego's weight at a high level, 136 pounds, for the Whitney Handicap at Saratoga, and he ren poorly in off going, the people closest to the 7-year-old gelding began to complain slightly about the inposts.
The owner, Martha Gerry, and the trainer, Frank Whiteley, are sporting people. They are as professionalas their horse. But they must know that there was no reason for Forego to be in the Whitney to begin with. And Whiteley must wonder, in retrospect, why he ever entered Forego in the Nassau County Handicap last June, between the Metropolitan and the Suburban.
When Forego was sent postward in the Nassau County under 136 pounds and won -- jockey Bill Shoemaker said the victory was achieved "easily" -- Trotter had littel choice but to raise the ante on Forego from 133 to 138 from the first to the second event in the Handicap Triple series.
Predictably, Forego's faithful want everybody to know how brilliant the gelding is, but when Trotter concurs with them and assigns the big gelding extreme high weight, they refuse to accept the compliment as the highest form of flattery.
Saturday, at Belmont Park, Trotter has lowered Forego's weight to 133 pounds for the $150,000 Woodward Handicap. Majestic LIght has drawn 128. J. O. Tobin, the 3-year-old colt that snapped Seattle Slew's undefeated string, is pegged at 121 pounds, or 126 on the scale, for the 1 1/8-mile race.
The Foregophiles should have no criticism of Trotter here. What they should petition for, however, is an end to New York's endless string of handicaps and a return of the Woodward to weight-for-age conditions over 1 1/4 miles. Weight-for-age is the way to settle championships questions. All that handicpas do, often as not, is to hold up the racing secretary's weights for question.