Yes, Kentucky, there is a Seattle Slew. he still resides in Billy Turner's barn at Belmont Park and, this Wednesday, America's 10th and only Triple Crown hero will be returned to light training.
Don't bet a billion blades of bluegrass, however, that the thoroughbred sport's newest glamour boy - he was that, at least before being beaten so badly in California on July 3-3 will be challenging Forego for the Horse of the year title in New York this fall.
Forego won the Woodward Handicap Saturday with Seattle Slew staying snug in his stall. Nominations to the $250,000 Marlboro Cup on Oct. 1 closed last week without Slew's name on the list. There is no way Turner can have the dark bay son of Bold Reasoning ready for the $300,000 Jackey Club Gold Cup on Oct. 15. And when the young trainer talks of a November outing for this colt he seems to be painting an abstract picture.
"The Turf Classic is the race that' really in the back of my mind." Turner said. "It's a new race at Aqueduct Nov. 17 and it's set up to follow the International. I'm sure Seattle Slew will handle the grass. But I'm thinking towards next year, when they plan to run him as a 4-year-old. There are three races at Hialeah that would lead to the handicap Triple Crown here in the Spring. Not too many horses have won the two Triple Crowns, have they?"
None has, to be precise.
It is comforting to know Seattle Slew will run again next season. But what about this year? What happened to the Kentucky Derby. Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner that he is not taking on Forego for the national championship this fall?
"I would attribute things to overexuberance from inexperience, which seems more prevanlent with young owners. "Turner replied."My relationship with the owners (Mickey Taylor and Dr. Jim Hill) remains good. We are all working along the best we can."
Turner paused, peered into the stall where Seattle Slew was standing, fanny forward, and answered the inevitable question without too much prodding.
"I'll tell you one thing they do well out there in California." Turner volunteered."They really make it inviting."
The implication was obvious. Hollywood Park, in luring Seattle Slew into his first defeat, in the Swaps Stakes, had made the colt's owners an offer they couldn't refuse.
"You look at the history of the Triple Crown races, and it's clear any horse that wins is going to need a break." Taylor continued. "We might have been able to get one more race for him after the Belmont, before giving him a rest, but not shipping him to California. I was overwhelmed.
"Seattle Slew was sound when he went to California. He was going all right, but he didn't have any life, any spark. I stayed in the background out there. They had promised that the track would not be superfast, something we had guarded against all year. Well, the day before the Swaps, $16,000 claimers went in eight and three (1:08 3/5). The track was so fast I expected a world record to be set in the Swaps."
Turner's plans for Seattle Slew after the Belmont never included a hurry-up trip to the West Coast.
"I intended to give him a rest, then bring him back to the Travers and, in particular, the Jerome (at Belmont on Labor Day). The Jerome is for 3-year-old at one mile and I thing Seattle Slew is the fastest miler who ever lived.
"That would have had him ready for the Woodward of the Marlboro and he could have capped off his year in the International at Laurel. Of course, at Laurel, you have to play it by ear to see if the turf course is going to be good or bad."
So what happened?
"Well, California really made it inviting." Turner repeated."By the time Seattle Slew got back home (after a personal appearance tour in Seattle) he was sound but he was worn out. He has been galloping daily, a mile and a half or two miles. But Wednesday will be his first breeze. He'll go a halfmile, then five-eights, and will go from there."
Just how much farther Seattle Slew will go in 1977 is questionable.If Forego had failed to re-establish his championship form in the Woodward, Marlboro and Jockey Club Gold Cup, Turner's colt stood to be voted Horse of the Year simply by staying in his stall.
Unfortunately, Forego does not appear ready to abdicate so easily. Seattle Slew probably will be forced to meet the three-time champion in the International or the Turf Classic if he wants to receive more than the Eclipse Award as the season's outstanding 3-year-old.
Turner, meanwhile, talks more of 1976 than 1977.
"It's important that he doesn't start out in the handicaps carrying too much weight," the trainer said. "If you begin by carrying 128 or 130 pounds, and you win you're finished. Who wants to be runner-up all the time? Look at Forego . . . ran his eyeballs out much of this year and couldn't win a race."
Until Saturday. Now, if Seattle Slew wants to be Horse of the Year, he will have to tackle the old pro. The defeat Slew suffered in California in early July, while it was the first of his career after nine victories, was the costliest loss in racing history.
The tragedy is that he lost so cheaply. There is only one way for the owners to recover from their mistake and that is by beating Forego, this year or next.