That made no difference to New York horseplayers. Although eight of the Champagne starters had stakes experience, Seattle Slew was sent off as the 6-to-5 favorite. He broke from the gate as if his tail were aflame and barreled ahead. For the Moment took aim at Seattle Slew at the head of the stretch but it was soon apparent he could not close the gap. In fact, Seattle Slew pulled away. He finished the mile event in the stakes record time of 1:34[2/5] with Cruguet easing his mount up.
Each year since 1964 the horse first under the wire in the Champagne has been declared the 2-year-old champion. That honor could now come to Seattle Slew despite only three starts. A strong case can be made for Run Dusty Run, the 2-year-old son of 1970 Kentucky Derby winner Dust Commander. Run Dusty Run has won five of seven starts including the Arlington-Washington Futurity and the Breeders' Stakes at Keeneland; his bankroll is $231,010 compared to Slew's $94,350. The two horses will probably not meet this season.
Seattle Slew's owners, Karen and Mickey Taylor, are from White Swan, Wash., about 150 miles from Seattle. Seattle Slew was bought on the advice of Dr. Jim Hill, a Florida veterinarian. "We hoped to come up with a name that would handle both the Northwest and Florida," Hill says. "We tried a lot and most of them were denied by The Jockey Club. A slew is a muddy backwater in Florida." No matter how the name evolved, Seattle Slew is certainly no longer Baby Huey.
Slew is from the first crop of Bold Reasoning, who started only 12 times but won eight races, including the 1971 Withers and Jersey Derby. Cruguet maintains that the colt is the best 2-year-old he has ridden since Hoist the Flag won the 1970 Champagne, only to be disqualified. Last season the Taylors, who have been in racing only four years, had Lexington Laugh finish 10th in the Champagne. Later Lexington Laugh broke down and was destroyed. This Champagne promises a happier, vintage ending.
Secretariat won the Champagne by a modest two lengths, Buckpasser by four, Foolish Pleasure by six, Riva Ridge and Honest Pleasure by seven and Never Bend by eight. Seattle Slew has already put on a better show on Champagne Day than some of America's most celebrated thoroughbreds.