Since leaving California after winning the Santa Anita Handicap in March, Broad Brush has done nothing but give away weight to the opposition.
Since Broad Brush doesn't win all of his races--excess poundage was certainly a factor when he ran a close third in the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park and when he was nosed out in the Massachusetts Handicap at Suffolk Downs--you would think that the 4-year-old colt might be starting to get a better break in the weights.
Not so. If anything, Broad Brush's weight differential is getting worse, and it figures to stay that way as long as he runs in handicaps the rest of the year. In effect, he is paying the penalty for everyone else's mediocrity. The ranks behind Broad Brush are so depleted, and the horses run so inconsistently, that racing secretaries have found it difficult to pile any weight on his opponents.
When Broad Brush left California and won two races in April, the horses that finished second couldn't beat him even though one carried 8 fewer pounds and the other had a 14-pound advantage.
Spotting Gulch 18 pounds in the Metropolitan--some of it because the other horse is only a 3-year-old--Broad Brush lost by three-quarters of a length. In the Massachusetts Handicap, the longshot Waquoit beat him with an impost nine pounds lighter.
Last Saturday in the Suburban Handicap, Broad Brush carried 126 pounds, and still there were only four challengers, all carrying 9 to 19 pounds less. Broad Brush barely lasted over Set Style, who was assigned only 112 pounds.
There are some weight-for-age races in the fall--capped by the Breeders' Cup Classic at Hollywood Park on Nov. 21--but in the meantime, Dick Small, Broad Brush's trainer, stays as game as they come. The next assignment for his horse is on Aug. 8 in the Whitney at Saratoga, and that's another handicap.
The suicide last week of Dan Beckon, a 35-year-old jockey who had 1,500 career wins, shocked the racing community at Woodbine, the fashionable track outside Toronto.
Beckon had been an articulate spokesman for jockey causes much of his career, and seemed an unlikely candidate to take his own life.
But then, Beckon also seemed to be an unlikely candidate to be using cocaine, and he shot himself on the day that Woodbine stewards found that he had tested positive for the substance for the third time in less than a year.
Beckon had not been riding erratically, and in fact ranked fourth in the Woodbine jockey standings. He and his wife had recently spent $600,000 for a farm near the track.
But when the stewards found the third test positive and ordered Beckon to join a rehabilitation program before he could ride again, the jockey told several people that he was "going to end it all."
When he left the track that day, nobody believed he would do it. Now they find it hard to believe that he did.
Apparently, $500,000 can make a difference.
The purse for the Haskell Invitational Aug. 1 at Monmouth Park has been raised by $300,000, to $500,000, but racing officials at the track near the New Jersey shore are having a difficult time finding horses that will consider their invitations.
Consequently, Alysheba, Bet Twice and Lost Code, who are arguably the best 3-year-olds in the division, may not have a lot of company.
By contrast, the Travers Stakes at Saratoga on Aug. 22 is a $1-million race and at least a dozen horses are being pointed in that direction.
Usually, the cream of the 3-year-olds is so wrung out by August, from the Triple Crown races and their preliminaries, that the Travers becomes a cozy affair. The last time more than nine horses ran in the stake was in 1981, and fields of between five and seven horses are more common.
The largest number of horses Saratoga's track can handle is 14. Already track officials are preparing an earnings rule that will limit the starters to that number.
Monmouth has been talking to major networks about televising the Haskell. ESPN, which carries more racing than any of the majors, is scheduled to televise the Cornhusker Handicap from Ak-Sar-Ben on the same day.
The horses that run in the Travers and the rest of the Saratoga races this year will be trying an altered racing strip.
August--the Saratoga season--is the rainiest month for Upstate New York, and last year, when a monsoon hit the ancient track halfway through the afternoon, conditions prevented the completion of the program.
Recently, about an inch of the topsoil was removed from the track and replaced with sand. The intention is to give Saratoga a consistency more like that of Belmont Park, which is noted for quickly drying when it rains.
Late in the recently completed Golden Gate Fields season, Joe DiMaggio, who wore No. 5 for the Yankees, went to the Bay Meadows satellite-television facility to bet a few of the races.
Someone told DiMaggio that No. 5 in the day's fifth race had a good chance. DiMaggio bet $5 to win.
The horse paid $55.