The Constellation handicap, originally scheduled to be run on the turf course at Laurel today, will be contested instead over the main dirt course.
Owners and trainers of the 11 Maryland breds entered in the 1 1/2 -mile event knew of the switch in surfaces when entries were accepted Thursday morning. Yet the weights the horses will carry are predicated on the Constellation being run on grass.
This summer at Atlantic City Race Course in New Jersey, racing secretary Eddie KcKinsey began issuing two sets of weights for his turf stakes, in case the race was shifted to the dirt.
It is an excellent idea, one long overdue, and should be copied at all major racing centers. It is particularly suited for Laurel turf stakes offered in November and December, when the late fall weather figures to make the grass course too soggt.
Guy Klank, Laurel's new racing secretary, sees no reason for dual weights.
"They wouldn't make that much of a difference, most of the time," he said yesterday.
Klank's comment would have us believe that a horses ability does not vary from turf to dirt. It does, dramatically in some instances, by as much as 10 pounds with a good horse.
Many thorougbreds wind up as grass runners primarily because they couldn't cut it on the dirt and the trainer tries the turf as an experiement or as a last resort.
Togus, the highweight (121 pounds) in today's $31,600 feature, is a case in point. He has never won on dirt. All six of his victories have been on grass. His dirt form would have him pegged at about 116 pounds, not 121, even thought he showed a good effort in the dirt in New York Sept. 28, when the Mahhattan Handicap was taken off the turf.
Togus, finished third that day behind Gallivantor and Gallapiat. The 4-year-old colt also boasts these efforts on dirt: third in the 1976 flamingo Stakes at Hialeah, far behind Honest Pleasure, and fourth to Honest Pleasure in the Florida Derby.
So maybe Togus will be able to handle the goo of the main track at Laurel today. He is out of a Bryan G. mare, which should help greatly in that respect. But Togus has been unfairly treated in the weights, no matter what.
Resound, carrying 114 pounds, probably will be favored over Togus because of the change in surface. There also will be considerable support for Take The Pledge (116), Dr. Krohn (116), RUmancoke (111) and City Of Gold (109). Longshot players will look kindly at Counter Punch (112).
Two races command attention nationally today Alydar opposes six rival 2-year-olds, including Quadratic, inthe $80,775 Remsen Stakes over nine furlongs at Aqueduct while Bel Iman, Fire Control and Cafe Prince head a field of 12 in the $100,000 Colonial Cup International Steplechase at Camden, S.C.
The Colonial, decided over two miles, six furlongs and 17 fences, is the richest up-and-over event in the United States.
Grand Canyon, representing New Zealand, won it last fall. It was thought that would spur more foreign interest in the race, but England's Sea Pigeon and Germany's Romping To Work are the only horses shipped from overseas especially for this renewal.Sea pigeon is accorded an excellent chance of winning.