Nyquist, Songbird top rankings
Nyquist, the undefeated winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the 2015 Eclipse Award winner in his category, was assigned 126 pounds to top the annual Experimental Free Handicap, one pound more than the highest-ranked filly, the undefeated Songbird.
Nyquist, by Uncle Mo, was assigned a weight two pounds more than his rival Swipe, a colt by Birdstone who finished second to Nyquist in the Juvenile and two other Grade 1 races. The weight is based on a theoretical race for 2-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, the distance of both the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies.
The Experimental Free Handicap has been released every year since 1935, and since 1985 fillies and males have been ranked separately by the committee that assigns the weights. A top weight of 126 pounds is considered standard for a male, and a top weight of 123 pounds is considered standard for a filly, a difference that is based on the three-pound weight allowance for fillies competing in open races.
Songbird’s assigned weight of 125 is the highest for a filly since Countess Diana was assigned 125 pounds in 1997. The highest-weighted filly ever was First Flight, who was assigned 126 pounds in 1946. In 2003, the 2-year-old champion filly Halfbridled was assigned 124 pounds, two pounds fewer than a trio of males assigned 126 pounds in the same year’s ranking. Several other fillies have come within two pounds of the leading male as well.
Both Songbird and Nyquist fulfilled expectations by winning their respective races at the Breeders’ Cup. However, many handicappers rated Song- bird’s performance the stronger of the two due to her faster time and the ease with which she won. Songbird won the Juvenile Fillies by 5 3/4 lengths in a time of 1:42.73 and earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99, while Nyquist won by a half-length in 1:43.79 and got an 89 Beyer.
Nyquist, trained by Doug O’Neil, is being placed squarely on the Triple Crown trail, but Songbird, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, has not been nominated to the series. Hollendorfer has said that her spring target is the Kentucky Oaks, run the day prior to the Derby.
Last year, American Pharoah (by Pioneerof the Nile), who would win the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup Classic in his 3-year-old campaign, was ranked at 126 pounds, equal to Texas Red (Afleet Alex), who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in his 2-year-old season.
A total of 113 males and 105 fillies were assigned weights this year. For the first time, horses that competed only in Canadian races were considered eligible for weighting.
Following Nyquist, Songbird, and Swipe were the colts Brody’s Cause (by Giant’s Causeway) and Hit It a Bomb (by War Front), both ranked at 121 pounds. The colts Airoforce (by Colonel John) and Green-pointcrusader ( by Bernadini) were co-ranked next at 120 pounds, along with a pair of fillies, Catch a Glimpse (by City Zip) and Rachel’s Valentina (by Bernardini).
The rankings this year were assigned by a committee of racing secretaries comprising 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, and Thomas S. Robbins of Del Mar Thoroughbred Club.