The 126 pounds assigned to Classic Empire is the standard impost for top Experimental horses.
Not This Time, second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, was the second highest weighted of all eligible 2-year-olds at 125 pounds.
The Jockey Club Experimental Free Handicap, published annually since 1935, is a weight-based assessment of the previous year’s leading 2-year-olds, with the weights compiled for a hypothetical race at 1 1/16 miles. This year’s list of eligible horses to be weighted included all 2-year-olds of 2016 that started in graded or listed stakes races run in the United States and Canada.
The weighting committee of racing secretaries included five this year: P.J. Campo of the Stronach Group, Ben Huffman of Churchill Downs and Keeneland, Steve Lym of Woodbine Entertainment, Martin Panza of The New York Racing Association Inc., and Thomas S. Robbins of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.
Out of the eligible 239 males and 230 fillies, a total of 109 males and 118 fillies were assigned weights.
Classic Empire, by Pioneerof the Nile out of Sambuca Classica by Cat Thief, won four out of five starts in 2016. (He lost his rider at the start of his third race, the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga Race Course). In addition to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, he also won the Bashford Manor Stakes and the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity. He earned the Eclipse Award as 2016 champion 2-year-old male.
Champagne Room, by Broken Vow out of Lucky to Be Me by Bernstein, won two out of five starts, including the Sorrento Stakes. She earned the Eclipse Award as 2016 champion 2-year-old filly.
Kentucky was the foaling state for Classic Empire and Champagne Room and again was the leading foaling state or province of all weighted horses with 74 males and 80 fillies; Ontario was second with 10 males and six fillies. Great Britain led foaling countries outside of North America with three fillies and two males.
Tapit was the leading sire of weighted horses with five fillies and three males. Into Mischief was second with five fillies and two males.
Below are a few facts about The Jockey Club Experimental Free Handicap:
- The Experimental Handicap started in 1933 in the U.S. as a variation of England’s Free Handicap. There was no experimental compiled in 1934.
- Today a mythical race designed to gauge the ability of top 2-year-olds during their 3-year-old campaigns, the Experimental Handicap was for more than a decade a real race.
- The Experimental Handicap was a six-furlong race from 1940-1945.
- The "free" designation became part of the name from 1946-1952 because there was not a nomination fee.
- From 1946-1952, the Experimental Free Handicap was contested as two races: one at six furlongs and another at 1 1/16 miles.
- The six-furlong division of the race was discontinued in 1956, and the race was not held in 1957.
- Seven of the 12 Triple Crown winners led their 2-year-old class: Whirlaway (126), Count Fleet (132), Citation (126), Secretariat (129), Seattle Slew (126), Affirmed (126), and American Pharoah (126).
- Since 2007, out of the top 20 The Jockey Club Experimental Free Handicap horses for each year, 74 have competed in Triple Crown races. Of those 74, there have been 24 finishes in the top three positions, including nine wins: Street Sense (127), Super Saver (122), Lookin At Lucky (126), Union Rags (126), American Pharoah (126), Nyquist (126) and Exaggerator (119).
- Last year’s top-weighted male, Nyquist (126), went on to win three out of six graded races in 2016, including the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
- Last year’s top-weighted filly, Songbird (125), won seven out of eight graded races in 2016, including four Grade 1 races, and was second in the Longines Breeders’ Cup Distaff.