We know in life that not all things are created equal. The same is true of race horses. YNN's Matt Hunter joined us trackside with more on a century old system designed to even the playing field.
SARATOGA RACE COURSE -- Wise Dan's win in last weekend's Fourstardave marked the reigning Horse of the Year's eighth in as many starts. Most remarkable is that he carried 129 pounds on his back, between 11 and 14 more than every horse in the field.
"That is a disadvantage for Wise Dan. He's just that talented that he can do it," said NYRA racing analyst Richard Migliore.
The Fourstardave is what's known as a "handicap" race, where the racing secretary assigns different weights to each horse in the field based on their past accomplishments. The top horses carry more, while their lesser competitors race with less.
"Usually what I look at is the quality of the field, the type of race they're in, the type of races they're coming from and really, to me, the important thing is the spread of weights," said P.J. Campo, NYRA VP and Director of Racing.
Migliore said, "If the racing handicapper was to weight them properly, they would all hit the line at the exact same time. Now we all know that isn't how it happens, but it's basically designed to try to make the race more fair."
In order to ensure a horse carries the proper poundage, jockeys are weighed before and after each race with their equipment. Each rider typically has up to 10 different saddles that weigh between two and 12 pounds.
"This particular saddle probably weighs in at about three-and-a-half to four pounds empty. What I mean by empty is has pockets for led weights and then they would add the led weights in. This is a pound led weight," Migliore said.
Handicap racing has grown less prominent over the years, with many owners seeking the best chance for success with their horses, making accomplishments like Wise Dan's all the more memorable.
Migliore said, "Years ago, we saw horses like Forego, Kelso, they would carry 135, 136 [pounds]. Dr. Fager carried as much as 140 and won."
Campo said, "If you have a $1 million race here and you have another race down the road for $750,000 or $500,000 and he can carry less weight or the competition is a little less, I think that has to go into everyone's thinking."
While Wise Dan's win last weekend was special, it wasn't the first time he carried extra weight. In his previous start, he carried 128 pounds, spotting the field between 11 and 13 pounds.