Champion Vindication, top-weighted on the Experimental Free Handicap.

Champion Vindication, top-weighted on the Experimental Free Handicap.

Barbara D. Livingston

No Surprises at Top of Experimental Free Handicap

The suspense leading up to the end of January wasn't whether the colt Vindication and the filly Storm Flag Flying would be voted champion 2-year-olds. They were. The suspense was whether the two unbeaten juveniles would be weighted above the standard weight--126 pounds for males and 123 for fillies--on the 2002 Experimental Free Handicap. They weren't.

"We thought about assigning Storm Flag Flying one pound above the standard, but felt she fit right in at 123," said racing secretary Mike Lakow of the New York Racing Association. Lakow determined the weightings of 64 males and 56 fillies with fellow racing secretaries Frank Gabriel Jr. of Arlington Park and Tom Robbins of Del Mar. Gabriel replaced Keeneland official Howard Battle, who died last year.

The last time both the high-weighted colt and filly were undefeated was in 1974. Foolish Pleasure, the colt, was weighted at 127 pounds, and Ruffian was pegged at 122 pounds. The standard for fillies at that time was 121 pounds. Both proved to be exceptional performers as 3-year-olds.

Vindication and Storm Flag Flying each won the race that counted the most. Vindication took the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), and Storm Flag Flying the Long John Silver's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Storm Flag Flying's dam, My Flag, was the Experimental high-weighted filly the year she won the 1995 Juvenile Fillies. She lost out for champion honors to Golden Attraction.

"Vindication had all the credentials," Lakow said. "He won the Breeders' Cup as he pleased, and won short and long."

After Vindication came Toccet, who was pegged at 124 pounds. Toccet finished unplaced in the Breeders' Cup, but closed out the year with consecutive wins in the Laurel Futurity (gr. III), Remsen Stakes (gr. II), and Hollywood Futurity (gr. I). He earlier had won the Champagne Stakes (gr. I).

"He just didn't run his race in the Breeders' Cup," Lakow said. "He apparently didn't like the track."

Sharing the next highest weight, 122 pounds, were Kafwain and Sky Mesa.

Storm Flag Flying's closest rival in the Juvenile Fillies was Composure, who also is her closest rival on the Experimental. Composure, who took the Oak Leaf Stakes (gr. II), was assigned 121 pounds.

The Experimental, published since 1933 under the auspices of The Jockey Club, is compiled for a hypothetical race at 1 1/16 miles in the spring for 3-year-olds on dirt. At one time, it grouped males and females together. Separate lists began in 1985.

Horses eligible for weighting were all 2-year-olds of 2002 that finished among the first four in graded or other non-restrictive races with an added value of $75,000 or more, run in the continental United States.

The rankings also come into play when assessing a horse's chances in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), and are used in conjunction with the dosage theory in determining which horses are "dual qualifiers."

Dual qualifiers are those horses ranked within 10 pounds of the male topweight and also have proper dosage figures to win the Churchill classic. Nine male runners were weighted within 10 pounds of Vindication. Under the dosage system, each horse is assigned a Dosage Index (DI) and Center of Distribution (CD). Horses with a DI higher than 4.00 and a CD above 1.25 are considered genetically unlikely to win the Run for the Roses.

Complete Experimental Free Handicap