On Memorial Day, we saw a great race between Country Grammer and Royal Ship (Brz), a horse that I purchased in Brazil for Fox Hill Farm and Siena Farm. Two classy horses battling to the wire and neither giving up. But, what Royal Ship was giving up was weight to the winner and that is the issue that I want to address. Why, in a Grade I stakes race, or any graded stakes for that matter, are the horses not running with equal weights or, at least, weight for age or sex?
I'm not saying that the two pound difference in the Gold Cup made a difference in the outcome, as Country Grammer ran an amazingly game race. But where do we draw the line on who deserves to be classified as a graded winner?
Many years ago, I trained a horse named Big Whippendeal for George Steinbrenner and won the Hialeah Turf Cup in track-record time. I then took him to California for the GI Century H., which he also won. We went back to Hollywood Park for the GI Sunset S. and my horse lost by a nose to a horse named Greco II.
If I remember correctly, Greco ll was in with 108 pounds with the great Bill Shoemaker aboard. My horse carried 126 pounds with another great in Laffitt Pincay. Shoe closed on the far outside and Laffitt didn't even see him and he brought Big Whippendeal back to the winner's circle to get our picture taken. In the end a nose, and eighteen pounds, beat us out taking that photo.
Does Greco ll deserve to be classified as a Grade I winner? I don't think so, but any catalogue page will list him as such and give more value to his entire family.
I have always believed that any horse who achieves the classification of being a graded stakes horse should have to accomplish that without having advantages over his competition.