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By Jude “Pontiff of the Pick Four” Feld
I was standing near the customer service booth adjacent to the paddock at Gulfstream Thursday afternoon when a large man with a big personality approached. Although I was attired more like a beach bum than a Gulfstream employee, I think the fellow was under the impression that I manned the booth.
“Can I ask you a question?” he said.
“Sure,” I replied. “Fire away.”
“Why don’t the jockeys weigh out in front of the public here? I’m from New York and I can watch the jockeys weigh out right in front of me. Here, I don’t know if the jockey that I bet on carried more weight than it says in the program.”
“I think the main reason is that not too many people care about weight anymore,” I said. “It has really become an afterthought to the bulk of handicappers in the United States. It is a handicapping factor that American players don’t consider much.”
“Well I consider it”, he said. “And I would like to see them weigh out. I’m not a schmuck. I wanna know the game is on the level.”
“I’m sure the game is on the level,” I replied, knowing that I was now representing Gulfstream Park, albeit unofficially. “They weigh out in the jock’s room here and the Clerk of Scales is very astute. I’m sure he has the public’s interest at heart. “
The guy seemed somewhat satisfied, thanked me and headed off to the hot dog cart.
Sunday, I was the guest of Gulfstream Park’s house handicapper, Ron Nicoletti, on his paddock handicapping show, so I had spent considerable time Saturday night and Sunday morning reading the Form.
My marathon ratings had come up with two horses with a big figure advantage over the Mac Diarmida (G3) field, Musketier and Simmard. Both were trained by Roger Attfield and although it was obvious looking at their charts that he tried to keep them apart, the few occasions they competed against one another, Musketier had proved the better of the two every time.
Now 10-years-old, Musketier had narrowly defeated Simmard, now seven, in their last start, the William L. McKnight Handicap (G2) at Calder Race Course, on November 26, 2011. Musketier had shouldered 121 pounds that day, with Simmard in at 116.
Musketier was asked to shoulder 123 pounds in the Mac Diarmida (G3) while Simmard would carry 117, a mere one pound shift in the latter’s favor.
I called attention to this weight shift during the paddock show and made Simmard my selection. Ronnie looked at me a little strangely, as I am sure most of his guests refer to Rag numbers and Beyer speed figures, not weight shifts. They went out with the ark.
As it always happens in handicapping articles, Simmard won the race. Did the one pound make the difference? Who really knows?
Simmard had youth, a lighter impost and slightly better odds on his side, so that is the way I bet.
“The whole game is based on weight,” Bobby Frankel said to me one afternoon at Del Mar.
I have never forgotten that.
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