11/17/2006 1:00AM

History Challenge: Fall Highweight Handicap


From the time organized Thoroughbred racing began in America in the 1860's, through the 1970's, older horses in search of seasonal championships were often at the mercy of the track handicapper.

Faced with fewer superstars - whose careers are often measured in months - and fierce competition for those stars among tracks, handicap races have all but disappeared. Those that remain do so in name only. With that in mind, it is not surprising that a race whose very purpose was to highlight a horse's weight-carrying ability has also fallen victim to this trend.

The Fall Highweight Handicap, to be run Thanksgiving Day at Aqueduct for the 93rd time, was inaugurated in 1914 as a model of the popular highweight races in England. Tradition dictated that the top-weighted horse in the Fall Highweight be assigned at least 140 pounds, with the others weighted accordingly. But racing secretaries in New York have turned a blind eye to that custom in recent years. (Last year, Lion Tamer was assigned high weight of 133 pounds. He did not start.)

Test your knowledge of Fall Highweight Handicaps of the past.

1. Through the first half of the 20th century, it was not unusual to see stakes races open to all ages (2-year-olds and up). The Fall Highweight Handicap, which was known as the Autumn Highweight from 1914 to 1920, was open to all ages until 1959.

While 2-year-olds did show up sporadically for the race during this era, only one ever finished among the top three. And it was a filly. And she won. Name her.

2. With conditions calling for the top-weighted horse in the Fall Highweight to carry at least 140 pounds, one would expect that past winners might have set some sort of weight-toting record. But, no horse has won the Fall Highweight carrying more than 140 pounds.

Two Hall of Famers have carried much more to victory. Roseben, dubbed "The Big Train," twice won the six-furlong Manhattan Handicap carrying 147 pounds (1905, 1906). In 1909, the iron mare Pan Zareta carried 146 pounds to victory in a sprint handicap at Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Tex.

Name the most recent Fall Highweight winner to carry 140 pounds.

3. Now positioned on the calendar after the Breeders' Cup, the Fall Highweight is unlikely to attract any of the nation's top sprinters. As recently as 2001, the now ungraded race carried a Grade 2. But, because of its unusual weight conditions and the fact that it was a sprint in the fall, most champions throughout the years did not compete in the race.

In its more than 90 years, the Fall Highweight has been won by only one horse who went on to be inducted into racing's Hall of Fame. Name the horse.

4. Keeneland's inaugural nine-day meeting in October 1936 featured a much-ballyhooed match race on closing day. The race was designed to decide which of two fillies was the best sprinter in the country.

The pride of the Midwest, Myrtlewood, defeated the pride of the East by three lengths. The Eastern representative had on two occasions defeated males in the Fall Highweight Handicap. Name her.

5. This gelding was never voted champion, but to racing fans along the Eastern Seaboard in the 1940's, his name was a household word.

For six seasons, from 1942 to 1947, whenever there was a major sprint race being contested, fans could count on this chestnut to be among the starters. He had a tendency to hang in many of his races, losing more than he should have, but he was always in there trying, according to legendary racing journalist Joe Palmer.

Four times this gelding went to the post in the Fall Highweight Handicap - finishing first once, second once, and third two times. Name this venerable racehorse.

For answers, .