Trainer Billy Turner Jr. promised "a race to remember" in the $139,400 Flamingo Stakes today at Hialeah . . . and Seat the Slew delivered an effort worthy of the thoroughbred sport's memory bank.
The undefeated early favorite for the Kentucky Derby scored by four lengths, pulled up, in 1:47 2/5. But the fractions on the infield to the board told the story, and sent fear into the hearts of horsemen pointing rivals for the May 7 classic at Churchill Downs.
Seattle Slew led throughout the mile and an eighth of the Flamingo - his first attempt past a mile, posting fractions of :25 2/5, :45 1/5; 1:09 and 1:34.
Olympia ran a faster quarter (:22 1/5) in winning the 1949 Flamingo. No other 3-year-old ever posted such rapid times at the furlong poles.
Olympia and Bold Ruler (1957) recorded :45 2/5 for the half-time. Honest Pleasure hung up a 1:09 six furlongs and a 1:34 2/5 mile last winter.
Seattle Slew accelerated brilliantly from the far turn to early stretch today. He was a length in front if Wine Treasure, then three lengths, then six, then nine as the 12 ivals quickly were turned into a posse unable to cope with the 1-to-5 favorite.
Seattle Slew paid $2.40 straight. The entry of Giboulee and Fort Prevel finished two-three, separated by a neck, with Caviar Kid, a 104-to-1 chance, taking fourth.
"If they didn't beat him today, they won't beat him," jockey Jean Cruguet said after dismounting. "Seattle Slew started looking around; he was so far ahead in the early stretch. I took hold of him, he relaxed, and it was easy. The excitement of the crowd (23,198) was the only thing to bother him a little. He got a little washy during the post parade."
Turner noted that the race "was what we thought he'd do, to be perfectly honest about it. Anyone who is lucky enough to have a horse like this is a lucky man, and Jean rode him perfectly. "Seattle Slew came out of it nicely. It appears to have been an easy race for him. He didn't have to run as fast as I thought he might, which is very encouraging."
Seattle Slew could have broken Honest Pleasure's Flamingo record of 1:45 4/5 had Cruguet asked him.
"I'm just glad Jean didn't let him," Turner added. "There's a long, hard campaign ahead. We want to last as long as possible."
The only criticism Turner could find with the colt was his "washiness" before the start.
"Crowds will be getting bigger, not smaller, as we go along," the young trainer said. "He's going to have to get used to it."
The next stop for Seattle Slew is New York. He will be stabled at Belmont Park for the next several weeks.
"The Wood Memorial (April 23) has been basic to our thinking all along, although things can change from day to day in this sport," Turner declared. "The Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland (April 28) could be a possibility, and I wouldn't want to completely rule out the Hollywood Derby (April 17)."
"It's thrilling, just being a part of the scene following him," acknowledged Karen Taylor, his owner. "Seattle Slew is no spectacular, the way he glides along."
Last year's champion 2-year-old is 5-for-5. He earned $90,610 today, compared to $98,550 for all previous efforts.
Bigger paydays are head.
Coined Silver, the 8-to-1 second choice, finished eighth in the Flamingo. Ruthie's Native, winner of the other division of the Florida Derby, wound up 10th. Wine Treasure, which stayed closset to Seattle Slew until the champion took off at the far turn, faded to last place - at 251 to 1.