09/01/2004 12:00AM

Carrying high weight no big burden


ETOBICOKE, Ontario - Blonde Executive's inspiring victory in the Aug. 21 Duchess Stakes at Woodbine went a long way to show just how insignificant weight can be in the handicapping equation, especially in sprints.

Because of her past successes, the diminutive Blonde Executive was the 123-pound highweight in the Grade 3 Duchess. She gave five pounds to the second highweight, Silver Bird, and nine pounds to Search the Church, the low-weight in the five-horse field.

Blonde Executive fought with favored Boston Express through rapid early fractions in the seven-furlong Duchess. Boston Express began to retreat at the quarter pole, as Search the Church made a bid along the rail to take a slim lead early in the stretch.

Blonde Executive promptly put that rival away, too, but she had no time for a breather, as Silver Bird was in the midst of her wide rally. Silver Bird seemed poised to overhaul Blonde Executive with a sixteenth left, but Blonde Executive held her ground and won by a neck in one of the grittiest efforts in recent Woodbine history.

Blonde Executive ($6.80) was the surprising third choice in the Duchess, mainly because she was going from restricted to open company, and partially because of the weight she was carrying. Obviously, her supposed back-breaking impost had little or no impact in the outcome.

Interestingly, of the 82 horses who ran on the Aug. 21 Woodbine card, 26 carried at least 120 pounds. Seven of those 26 horses were winners on the 10-race program.

Soaring Free carried 126 pounds when he set the North American record for seven furlongs on the grass (1:19.38 seconds) in the Ontario Jockey Club Stakes here July 24. He was the 126-pound-highweight again last Saturday, in the seven-furlong Play the King Handicap, in which he overcame some adversity to polish off an accomplished field.

Countless examples can be cited for either side in the weight debate, but horseplayers should concentrate on more important handicapping factors, such as speed, class, trips, and pedigree. High weight may stop a train, but it doesn't slow down most horses, to any significant degree.

Condition book is handicapper's tool

The formulas for determining the weight carried by horses can be found in the condition book, which contains the races used to make up a card.

The condition book can be a useful tool when a handicapper is trying to determine why a horse is running in a particular race, especially when another spot might seem more logical.

A prime example was when Wila West was entered with a $45,000 tag in a $50,000 claimer Aug. 20 at Woodbine.

Wila West was in good form heading into that race. She was coming off a third-place finish in a 1 1/16-mile preliminary allowance, the level at which she would seem to be a good fit. That exact race for fillies and mares could have been found on Aug. 22 in the condition book, and it ended up going with a 10-horse field.

The fact that Wila West was running against $50,000 stock, with that allowance race later in the week, was obviously a negative sign. Off a 4-1 morning line, she was sent off at 5-1, and ended up trailing the field after setting the early pace.

Woodbine's condition book can be downloaded online at Woodbineentertainment.com. It is also available in the race office and the horsemen's bookkeeper's office.