Unbeaten Seattle Slew subdued Cormorant on the stretch turn, then hold off a late charge by Iron Constitution to capture the Preakness Stakes today and move within one race, the Belmont Stakes, of becoming the 10th Triple Crown winner.
The margin victory was a length and a half.
Seattle Slew completed the mile and three-sixteenths in an authoritative 1:54 2/5, only fractions off the stake and track record set by Canonero II in 1971. And, for the first time, he officially finished "ahead" of Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner. Secretariat's Preakness time was listed originally as 1:55, although it is disputed as having actually been 1:53 2/5, and later was compromised officially to 1:54 2/5.
No matter, Seattle Slew's eighth success today sealed off his reputation from further abuse. His time was that of a true classicist and he posted it the hard way, the 2-to-5 favourite surrending the favourite ground along the rail to Cormborant until the three-eighths pole. His mile time of 1:34 4/5 is a preakness record, one-fith faster than Cononero's.
Jockey Jean Cruguet asked Seattle Slew for a little something extra after the first six furlongs were completed in a rapid 1:09 4/5. The Kentucky Derby hero responded.
"I could see the boy on the other horse (Cormorant was gone (finished) a the five-eighths pole. He was dead all the way. I just didn't want to move too soon."
Seattle Slew drew out to a three length lead leaving the eighth pole, at which point Iron Constitution made a bid. Many fans in the record crowd of 77,346 undoubtedly thought the 30-to-1 shot, winner of the Withers Mile last Saturday over Cormorant, was going to make the finish close.
'I neved did,' said Billy Turner, Seatle Slew's trainer. 'The race was over . . . when we left Cormorant.'
Iron Constitution, a gray colt, closed willingly inder Jorge Velasquez to take second place by two lengths over Run Dusty Run, the Derby runner-up Cormorant faded to fourth, more than a length out of the money, supporting Turner's contention that 'no horse can run (early) with Seatle Slew and be close at the finish.'
Seatle Slew showed once again he is a tremondous competitor. It is almost as though Mickey and Karen Taylor's 3-year-old 'sizes up' the opposition during a race, then does a very professional job of dismantling his nearest rival. He appears to be in charge of the action from the starting gate to the wire.
'I probably could have made the lead today, if it had been necessary,' Cruguet said. 'With him, I always have more speed if I want to use it.'
Jockey Danny Wright urged Cormorant, breaking from the No. 1 post, to gain the lead inside Seattle Slew during the long run to the clubhouse turn, even though Slew was comfortably ahead of Cormorant as the two horses passed under the wire the first time.
"I thought we were in pretty good shape, once we got the rail," Wright said. "We had the lead going up the backstretch, and I hadn't used my horse yet. I was confident . . . then the bubble burst, even though we had Seattle Slew outside us all that time."
At least until yesterday there was supposedly "rail bias" at Pimlico, meaning the racing strip was hard along the inside, deep on the outside, lacking in uniformity.
"Today," Wright noted, "the entire track had more constituency. For some reason - they must have worked on it - horses were coming from behind and winning, which they weren't doing earlier."
Gregg McCarron (eighth on Counter Punch) noted: "Management said they were going to fix the track, and they did. It's a shame they didn't do this way back when."
Turner said he was never really worried - about Cormorant, Iron Consitution, track bias or anything.
Now it's on to New York and the Belmont Stakkes at Belmont Park on June 11. "That's unless the strike in New York continues," Turner noted. "They almost had the Preakness at Belmont, when there was a strike by mutuel clerks in Maryland. Don't tell me we'll now have the Belmont at Pimilco."
Seattle Slew will join elite company if he can add the mile and a half of the Belmont to his credits. The Triple Crown winners are Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Chitation (1948) and Secretariat (1973).
Pimlico's biggest crowd bet $1,372,169 on the Preakness, a record, and $4,145,453 on the nine-race card which saw all nine favorites win. The Preakness Day record is $4,264,813, set in 1975.