Seattle Slew won the $110,300 Wood Memorial today at Aquedect in what, for him, was a wooden performance. There was little about his 3 1/2-length victory over Sanhedrin to scare off many Kentucky Derby candidates.
A crowd of 36,178 and a natonal television audience saw Seattle Slew lead throughout the nine furlongs of the Wood. The undefeated colt posted fractions of :23 4/5, :47 4?5, 1:12 1/5 and 1:36 en route to a final clocking of 1:49 3/5. The time was moderate. The racing strip was a little cuppy.
Trainer Billy Turner, jockey Jean Cruguet and owners Mickey and Karen Taylor declared they were pleased by the manner in which Seattle Slew achieved his sixth success. Angel Cordero, the rider of Sanhedrin, remained unconvinced, however - and it was Cordero who piloted Bold Forbes to victory in the Wood, and then over the odds-on Honest Pleasure in last year's Derby.
"There is no doubt Seattle Slew is the best of the 3-year-olds, right now," Cordero said. "But he is always having things his own way, just like Honest Pleasure did in his races before he met Bold Forbes last spring. The test will come when another horse really challenges him early.
"You've got to see if a thoroughbred can fight," Cordero cautioned. "It's one thing to hit someone and run away; it's something else to hit someone . . . and they hit you back."
The opposition in this 53d Wood did not have sufficient quality to severely test Seattle Slew. There were only two minor stakes winners among his six rivals.
Fratello Ed stayed with the 1-to-10 favorite until the far turn. Cordero asked Seattle Slew to open a little breathing space at that point, and the dark bay son of Bold Reasoning responsed. Slew was three lengths in front, turning for home, and six lengths to the good leaving the eighth pole.
Sanhedrin closed nicely to take second money, 4 1/4 lengths ahead of Catalan, ridden by Steve Cauthen. Cauthen had four firsts and three seconds today before the feature.
Seattle Slew was not nearly as sensational, forcing Turner to almost "defend" the performance in post-race interviews.
"He did all we set out today," the 36-year-old trainer explained. "We wanted him to relax, when he was running with other horses down the backstretch, and he did just that.He didn't become rank when hooked. He rated kinly for Cruguet. He wasn't tight. He hadn't had a race in over a month, and the track today wasn't fast. All in all, the horse did just enough."
Seattle Slew's most recent effort was in the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah on March 26. His time that day was 1:47 2/5, over a glib surface that was much more speed-conducive than Aqueduct's strip today.
The strip at Churchill Downs will be much faster, more like Hialeah's than Aqueduct's. Seattle Slew leaves for Louisville "later this week," Turner said. Wednesday is the earliest departure date.
Today's triumph was worth $66,130 to the Taylors, who paid $17,500 for Seattle Dlew as a yearling in Kentucky. Their colt now has amassed $255,340 and has yet to be under any sort of stress at the finish of a race. His margin of victory today was the smallest os his career.
"I still haven't touched him with my whip since the Champagne (Mile) last fall," Cruguet reminded. "He is running more comfortably for me all the time. He doesn't have to run for me the way he did in Florida, when he took off and opened up a big lead. He showed that today."
Seattle Slew will be the first unbeaten Derby entrant since 1969, when Majestic Prince kept his perfect record intact on the Downs. Regret, a filly that captured the 1915 Derby and Morvicht, the 1922 victor, also were unbeaten.