His name is Seattle Slew. Can do, can do. The guys say this horse can do. What he did last week was truly remarkable. In only the third start of his life and his first stakes appearance, Seattle Slew drubbed nine other top-rated 2-year-olds in the $137,250 Champagne at Belmont Park by 9� lengths, an astonishing margin in such a classy event. Until late last month Seattle Slew was just a rumor, a hope lingering in Barn 60 on the backstretch, but in a 26-day period he has advanced to stardom in a racing year already filled with a heady measure of fine races and performers. If Seattle Slew gets any better than he was on Champagne Day, he may become a folk hero, a national attraction with bumper stickers.
In an era of multimillion-dollar yearlings Seattle Slew comes running in from the dime store. He was bought at a Kentucky auction last year for $17,500. From there he was sent to a farm in Maryland where the stablehands quickly realized he was basically a clod. His right fore-hoof paddled outward, and he had so much trouble doing things properly that he soon was nicknamed Baby Huey after the ever-erring character in movie cartoons. Slowly, however, the slew-footed colt got things together, and the laughter on the shed row was replaced by affection. In April, after his first workout at Belmont, the affection was enhanced by optimism. And dreams.
The first fantasy was to have been played out at Saratoga in August when Seattle Slew was to start on the final day of the meeting. But the colt became playful in his stall, injured a hock and had to be withdrawn. Yet word of him was already moving along the backstretch.
That week at Saratoga Jockey Ron Turcotte rode a horse named For the Moment to victory in an allowance event and, after the race, was praising his mount in the jockeys' room. But fellow rider Jean Cruguet told Turcotte, "There is a better 2-year-old than that on the backstretch."
"What's his name?" asked Turcotte.
"I won't tell you," said Cruguet, "because if I do, you will try to get on him yourself."
Cruguet himself rode a very fine 2-year-old named Banquet Table on the final day of Saratoga, winning the $85,575 Hopeful Stakes, but the French-born jockey remained decidedly silent about his personal choice among the 2-year-olds, the mahogany-colored son of Bold Reasoning.
On Sept. 20 Seattle Slew finally started at Belmont and, because of hot workouts and hot rumors, he was bet down to 5 to 2 in a field of 12. He assumed command at the break and won by five lengths. Fifteen days later Billy Turner, the colt's 36-year-old trainer, entered him in a seven-furlong race. By now word of a wonder animal was all over the racetrack. The public made Seattle Slew the shortest-priced favorite of the meeting, despite the fact that he had drawn the inside post position, the worst at the track. (This fall only 8% of the races at Belmont have been won from the inside post.) Seattle Slew dwelt at the start but then charged to the front and drew off by 3� lengths. What might he prove next?
"I wanted to run him in the Champagne," Turner said last Saturday evening, "but how often does a horse win the Champagne after only two starts? Then I decided sooner or later he would have to find out that things don't come easy."
Seattle Slew's main opponent in the Champagne was For the Moment, a full brother to Honest Pleasure who had won four of five starts, including a division of the Cowdin Stakes as well as the $119,255 Futurity at Belmont. Those wins put For the Moment at the head of the 2-year-old class, and already a half-interest in him had been sold by Waldemar Farms to Gerald Robins, a real estate developer in Miami, for half a million dollars.