Nine rivals, including five from Skid Row, were entered today to challenge the $10 million Seattle Slew in Saturday's $183,800 Belmont Stakes.
Leading Scorer, Mr. Red Wing, Sir Sir and the entry of Hey Hey J.P. and Make Amends lack anything resembling classic credentials. Run Dusty Run, Spirit Level, Sanhedrin and Iron Constitution will form the contention for Seattle Slew as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner attempts to remain undefeated through nine races.
Nine 3-year-olds have captured the American Triple Crown. None, however, were unbeaten through the Belmont. If Seattle Slew can negotiate the mile and a half of the Belmont successfully - and the odds are 1 to 5 he will - the brown great-grandson of Dold Ruler will have made thoroughbred history and increased his value as a future syndicated stallion to perhaps $12 million.
"I would think he could command $300,000 a share for from 32 to 40 shares should he win the Belmont," John Finney, president of the Fasig-Tipton Co. said today. "We're talking about a dimension. We're out of the free-market situation when we talk about a horse like this or like Secretariat. It's almost like dealing with the top level of art. Contemplating the future of Seattle Slew at stud is like an art collector contemplating. 'Aristotle Contemplating the Bust of Homer'."
Secretariat, the most recent (1973) Triple Crown hero, was syndicated for $6,080,000 before he ran as a 3-year-old. The record syndication is $8 million, paid for the champion stallion What A Pleasure last year.
"Secretariat did for syndications what the late Charles Engelhard did for high-priced yearlings," Finney observed. "He made paying that kind of money respectable. Secretariat brought $190,000 a share before the Triple Crown. Five months later, after he had won the Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont, a share could be sold for $450,000.
"What controls these prices, the amount that the people at the top are willing to pay, is peer-group respect," Finney said. "These people can pay $400,000 instead of $200,000 and not feel a thing, but they don't want to appear a damn fool in front of their friends.
"Engelhard showed it wasn't a damn fool thing to pay $100,000 or more for a yearling. Secretariat quickly showed that he had been a good investment, too. Riva Ridge ($5,120,000), Wajima ($7,200,000) and Key To The Mint ($4,800,000) followed."
Finney believes Secretariat commanded greater respect from the peer group, at a similar point in his career, than Seattle Slew does.
"This horse doesn't yet have the believers Secretariat had," Finney remarked. "Secretariat could have been syndicated for $400,000 a share ($12,800,000) after the Triple Crown. But Seattle Slew has a hell of a lot more believers than Secretariat had when he was syndicated. None of Bold Ruler's sons had won a classic at that time.
"Secretariat became cemented in the public mind by his performance in the Belmont (winning by 31 lengths in a record 2:24). Seattle Slew hasn't done anything as devastating as Secretariat did in the Belmont - and he probably won't. But he's done everything asked of him."
Does that mean Seattle Slew's value could soar even higher if, eventually, owners Mickey Taylor and Jim Hill decide to tap into some of that peerless "peer-group respect."
"It's hard for me to concede of any horse going over $12 million," Finney replied. "But Seattle Slew was the champion 2-year-old. If he wins the Tiple Crown, stays undefeated, becomes the champion 3-year-old, beats Forego in the Woodward, carries high weight and wins the Marlboro, then wins the Jockey Club Gold Cup over two miles, well, yes, he might be a $15 million horse.
"After all, as of Saturday he might well be the only horse in 300 years of thoroughbred racing to have achieved as much as he has and still be undefeated. That makes him unique."
One wonders where all the syndication money comes from, the money with which a Seth Hancock, a Leslie Combs or a John Gaines can form 32 to 40 shareholders into a money tree for fashionable-pedigreed bloodstock. The older members of the horsey set are decreasing in number.
"It's called 'upward social mobility'," Finney said. "And there are a large number of people who want to be associated with those at the top.
"Besides," Finney added, "what is so preposterous about $15 million for a proven horse when you consider today's yearling prices.I think you would agree Seattle Slew is worth 10 times as much as any yearling, and a (Secretariat) yearling brought $1 1/2 million last summer, and that was for a young horse that had never seen a bridle."