This was a memorable week for Seattle Slew. Sunday his trainer was fired. Yesterday he was named Horse of the Year.
One might conclude, judging from the 2-to-1 decision Seattle Slew received over Forego in the Eclipse Award balloting, that young Billy Turner did a fairly decent job of training the Triple Crown winner. Turner was nine for nine with the 3-year-old colt. Then Jim Hill took over and Slew finished fourth, beaten by 16 lengths, in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park July 3. The colt has not started since.
Now Hill, the veterinarian who is a part-owner of the colt, is free to continue working his magic, unencumbered by Turner. Doug Peterson has been named to succed Turner as the trainer, but Peterson can be little more than a puppet on the strings of Mickey Taylor and Hill. They are going to call all the shots, just as they insisted on the trip to California over Turners' objections.
I I bleed for Turner. Any mistakes he may have made with Seattle Slew always were on the side of ultraconservatism, and that is not a terrible charge to make against any trainer. Turner displayed great patience in developing the colt into a champion 2-year-old, then brought him through the Kentucky Derb. Preakness and Belmont Stakes with his undefeated recorded still intact. No thoroughbred ever advanced that far perfectly.
Turner's biggest mistakes was in being so candid about the California calamity which reduced Seattle Slew's syndication value as a stallion, from a potential $15 million to less than $8 or $10 million.
"Those people out there on the West Coast sure know how to make a race inviting," the trainer said. "I think it's fair to say they made an offer that apparently couldn't be refused."
So Hill and Taylor decided to go West with their horse, for guaranteed gold, even though they had publicly agreed with Turner a month earlier that Seattle Slew deserved a long and needed rest following the Triple Crown series.
Slew shipped to California, lost, then made a guest appearance in Taylor's home state of Washington. By the time Turner got him back to Belmont Park the colt was through for the summer and,as it turned out, through for the year. Seattle Slew now is in Florida, at Hialeah Park, where he is being pointed for a new stake, the "Seattle Slew Invitational," to be run late next month.
I bleed for Turner, I feel just as sorry for Forego, the best horse to perform at an American race track in 1977.
Old war horses never die, they simply compile such a brilliant record that it becomes impossible for then to continue winning all the time under the extreme high weights imposed by the rich handicaps. Then, when a young whippersnapper comes along, the Eclipse voters look only for the number of "Is" at the tag end of the past performance lines and make a simplistic judgement.
Three organizations participate in the Eclipse balloting members of the National Turf Writers Association, writers and editors for Daily Racing Form, and racing secretaries of the Thoroughbred Racing Associations.
Each group, in effect, casts one vote for Horse of the Year. The NTWA opted fr Seattle Slew ove Forego, 47 to 29. Daily Racing Form followed suit, 42 1/2 to 31 1/2. The TRA supported Forego's bid for a fourth straight national championship 24 to 16.
I will always beleive Forego was denied another year to his reigh that he definitely deserved, even though hiss 77 record was not as overpowering as his previous one.
Seattle Slew still has much to prove and I have a feeling that without Turner in the col's corner the going is going to become much more difficult in a hurry.
one of these days Seattle Slew is going to have to comcede weight to his rivals. Not the tremendous spreads imposed on Forego, to be sure, but enough of a weight penalty that the comparatives abilities of the two horses will be put in perspective.
The days of Seattle Slew beating up on Run Dusty Run, a colt that couldn't win anything, are over . The road gets together, and considerably rougher, fromhere on out, as any followers of Forego knows.