Slew is seven for seven, with the Kentucky Derby safely behind him, but the challenges to his bid for greatness continue Saturday with the 102d running of the Preakness Stakes (WMAL-TV-R, 5 p.m.).
Indeed, this morning in the Pimlico backstretch, Cormorant's exercise boy felt compelled to wear a light blue T-shirt with bold, blue lettering on the back asking the above question as he rode past the favorite's stall.
Some people," Billy Turner observed, "are tough to convince."
Turner, 37, trains Seattle Slew. He is confident the $17,500 yearling purchase owned by Wooden Horse Investments Inc., and leased to Karen Taylor of White Swan, Washington, for facing purposes is about to run the best distance race of his career. The nine 3-year-olds entered in the $191,100 middle event of the Triple Crown series are asked to travel a mile and three-sixteenths.
"We blew Seattle Slew's workout the Sunday before the Derby," Turner admitted. "Anyone who saw it, knew it. I wanted the colt to relax. He relaxed too much (a mile in 1:41 4/5).
"Then the 20 minutes we had to spend saddling the horse, under the roof at Churchill Downs, were like being in a hot-house. He got real washy.
"Then the assistant starter who loaded him into the gate was a little too helpful. He kinda pushed Seattle Slew's head to the left, onto the horse next to him. He broke badly, then had to run like a wild horse to get position, which he did.
Still, Seattle Slew won by nearly two lengths over Run Dusty Run.
"It's just that we gave away too much for the Derby. We don't want to spot anybody that much again. Ever. For the Preakness, things have gone much more smoothly," Turner said.
Seattle Slew worked seven furlongs in a snappy 1:22 4/5, handily, Sunday at Belmont Park before vanning to Maryland the next morning. This morning the dark brown colt breezed a leisurely three furlongs in :36.
Turner, by his training, has shown he has much more respect for the Preakness rivals than he did for those at Churchill Downs. "Had I appraised the situation differently in Kentucky, Seattle Slew would have been brought up to the race differently," he said.
Cormorant, in particular, poses a strong new threat for the letter-perfect son of Bold Reasoning. Cormorant won seven races in a row before dropping a nose decision to Iron Constitution last Saturday at Aqueduct in the Withers Mile, Cormorant missed the Derby because of a viral infection and had not competed in more than a month.
The chances of Cormorant recording an upset as the second choice - at 5 to 1, with Seattle Slew 2 to 5 - were enhanced considerable Thursday when post positions were drawn. The Maryland-bred and based colt drew No. 1, the rail, where the going is exceptionally fast, while Seattle Slew drew No. 8 and Run Dusty Run, the third choice, is parked out in Post 9.
Completing the lineup, in order of probable parimutuel preference, are: J.O. Tobin, Iron Constitution, Counter Punch, Regal Sir, Sir Sir and Hey Hey J.P. There were two jockey changes today, and they concerned the same horse. Robert Gilbert replaced Herb Hinojosa on Hey Hey J.P. A few hours later, Angel Cordero replaced Gilbert.
A crowd of 70,000 is expected to see this Preakness in beautiful, 80-degree weather. ABC will televise the race nationally from 5 to 6 p.m. Post time is 5:40.
Only once before has a 3-year-old come to the second leg of the Triple Crown series undefeated, Majestic Prince was the other one, defeating Arts And Letters by a head.
Seattle Slew will run on Butazolidin, an anti-inflammatory medication. So will Cormorant.
"My horse didn't have it for the Derby," Turner said. "It's strictly a precautionary measure on my part, of no great significance."
Citation was the shortest-priced horse in Preakness history, at 1 to 10, against three foes in 1948. Seattle Slew will be sent off at the lowest odds since Secretariat scored as the 3-to-10 favorite in 1973.
J.O. Tobin gained a championship on the grass in England as a 2-year-old but has yet to seriously try American dirt racing. Iron Constitution, a gray colt, was 35 to 1 when he upset Cormorant last week. This is his fifth straight Saturday of racing and 12th start of the year. Counter Punch is a middleweight, not a heavyweight. Regal Sir has been less than royal in Canada.
Sir Sir prepped in the Derby for the Preakness. In the Preakness he is prepping for the Belmont. In the Belmont he will almost be ready for the Dvyer handicap.
Hey Hey J.B. worked yesterday for Johnny Campo. "Look at that horse," the rotund trainer commented. "He looks good. He runs good. I even own the mare. But he doesn't have any class and, right now, Seattle Slew is at the head of the class."