At least one trainer was not happy with the weights that were released Sunday for next Sunday's $1-million Santa Anita Handicap. And he's a trainer who may not even be starting a horse in the 1-mile race.
"This is a joke," said Joe Manzi, who trains Masterful Advocate. "Ferdinand should have gotten 130 pounds."
Masterful Advocate was assigned 114 pounds for the Big 'Cap after finishing in the middle of a five-horse field in an allowance race at Santa Anita Saturday. Masterful Advocate was one of last year's top 3-year-olds in the spring before he was knocked out while running 12th in the Kentucky Derby, and is only a probable for the Big 'Cap. He hasn't won a race in almost a year.
Ferdinand, voted horse of the year for 1987 after beating Alysheba by a nose in the Breeders' Cup Classic at Hollywood Park in November, will carry top weight of 127 pounds in the Big 'Cap, with Alysheba at 126, Super Diamond at 124 and Judge Angelucci at 123. There may be only a few other starters besides the big four.
The weights were determined by a four-man committee chaired by Frank (Jimmy) Kilroe, Santa Anita's vice president for racing. Others participating were Tom Robbins, Santa Anita's racing secretary, and his assistants, George Taniguchi and Tom Knust.
"Ferdinand should have gotten 130 pounds and Alysheba 128," Manzi said. "Who are we kidding? They just gave Ferdinand a race the other day and now he drops a pound. He's the champion, he ought to be good enough to run with 130 pounds. Him getting in with only 127 is ridiculous."
Ferdinand used the San Antonio Handicap on Feb. 14 as a prep for the Big 'Cap. In his first start since the Breeders' Cup, Ferdinand finished second to his stablemate, Judge Angelucci, but he trailed by 12 lengths early and was never in the race.
In the 1980s, only three horses have carried as much as 130 pounds at Santa Anita. Spectacular Bid won the Big 'Cap under 130 in 1980, as did John Henry, via Perrault's disqualification in 1982, and Glorious Song ran second in the 1981 Santa Margarita Handicap.
Manzi used to be an assistant to Charlie Whittingham, who trains both Ferdinand and Judge Angelucci. Whittingham, who has won two of the last three Big 'Caps, with Lord at War and Greinton, and seven overall, may start a third horse next Sunday, either Temperate Sil or Swink. Ferdinand just missed giving Whittingham his third straight Big 'Cap win last year, when he was nosed out at the wire by Broad Brush.
"I thought they'd make Ferdinand and Alysheba a pound apart, because my horse is a 5-year-old and Alysheba is a 4-year-old," Whittingham said. "Judge Angelucci picked up a pound off of his last race, so that kind of figured."
The winners of the Kentucky Derby the last two years, Ferdinand and Alysheba, will give the Big 'Cap its first matchup of Derby winners since Ponder and Citation met in 1950. Citation finished second, Ponder was fourth and the race was won by Noor, under Johnny Longden at only 110 pounds.
In his only start this year, Alysheba, carrying 126 pounds, won the Strub Stakes by three lengths.
Tom Gentry was unhappy with the weight assigned Super Diamond. Gentry bred Judge Angelucci, and the 5-year-old runs in the name of his son, Olin.
"I must be new at this game," said Gentry, who bought his first horse in 1950, "but can you tell me how a horse (Super Diamond) can win a race with 125 pounds and then drop to 124? It doesn't make sense."
Super Diamond beat Judge Angelucci by a neck in the San Pasqual Handicap on Jan. 31.
Besides Masterful Advocate, Temperate Sil, Swink and Sebrof, another possibility for the Big 'Cap is Cryptoclearance. He was weighted at 119 pounds, fifth on the list, followed by Temperate Sil at 117. Swink's weight is 115 and Sebrof has 113.
Cryptoclearance was not as good as the best of a formidable crop of 3-year-olds last year, but he was fourth in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Preakness and second in the Belmont, earning $1.3 million. This year, in Florida, Cryptoclearance has been second to Jade Hunter in both the Donn and Gulfstream Park handicaps.
Knust talked to Scotty Schulhofer, Cryptoclearance's trainer, on Sunday after the Big 'Cap weights were released.
"They're very seriously thinking about coming," Knust said. "There's a plane leaving Florida on Friday with some other horses coming to California, and there would be room for Cryptoclearance. Pat Day is available to ride if they decide to run."
Dick Mulhall, who saddled What a Diplomat to win Saturday's San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita, was back in the winner's circle Sunday, winning the $158,300 Arcadia Handicap with Mohamed Abdu.
Winning his fourth straight start in the United States, Mohamed Abdu also sent Mike and Mollie Gaskin of Beverly Hills back to the winner's circle. The Gaskins own What a Diplomat and they are partners in Mohamed Abdu with Marco Markovic.