Hialeah park opens Monday with Seattle Slew no-show for the first of the track's 40 programs.
"He appears to be doing much better," was the word yesterday from Florida on the 1977 horse of the year. "He ran a temperature of 102 on Friday, but he has been treated for an injection and everything seems to be normalizing. He's getting his appetite and there's a 70-30 chance he will be able to run in the $100,000 Challenge Cup on Jan. 28 even if he doesn't have a prep race."
Seattle Slew has not run anywhere since July 3, when the Bold Reasoning colt suffered the first loss of his career - after nine victories - in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park. A respiratory problem supposedly kept him out of action the remainder of the year.
"That has nothing to do with his current condition," owner Mickey Taylor declared.
The owners took no chances, however. Late yesterday afternoon, they were awaiting the analyses from three laboratories of Seattle Slew's sample. His blood count had been low.
Maybe there is fever in the colt's blood because he has become confused by his recent training pattern. All of a sudden, Seattle Slew is working five furlongs in :57 2-5 and :58 2-5, breezing, and this is the same throughbred that moved undefeated through the Triple Crown series off long, hard gallops.
Yound Doug Peterson is in charge of the colt's conditioning now, having replaced Billy Turner. There is no way Peterson can win this season unless Seattle Slew goes undefeated.
And winning races as a 44-year-old in the handicaps is much more difficult than competing under level weight at.
For instance Seattle Slew was assigned high weight of 128 pounds in the Tallahassee Handicap, the seven-furlong sprint that feature Hialeah's opening card. Slew would have had to concede 13 rivals from six to 19 pounds. So maybe it's a good thing he came up with an infection. All he would have earned from winning the Tallahassee would have been more weight for his next handicap appearance.
The Tallahassee even without its top weight, shapen up as interesting even, what with Silver Series, 122 pounds, and Run Dusty Run, at 120, heading then large field. These two-4-year-olds figure to provide the toughest competition for Seattle Slew in the Challenge Cup. The cup, a new nine-furlong race to be run inder allowance conditions, would find Seattle Slew carrying 126 pounds - if he recovers from his latest illness in time.
Whatever is ailing Seattle Slew probably is quite mild compared with the miseries that have plagued Hialeah in recent years. One continues to wonder if this beautiful winter show-winter of American racing can survice into the '80s.
The track's location has suffered during the past decade as much of the wealth in the Miami area moved north, to the Hallandale high rise and the gold Coast scantuary, where the Gulfstream Park is located, leaving Hialeah surrounded by members of the low socioeconomic layer.
Gulfstream has shown it is capable of generating better business than Hialeah when it has the prime mid'winter dates. Gulfstream also outhandles ' when it hosts the late-winter meeting.
The only intelligent case to be made for the continuation of Hialeah in prime time is that Hialeah-Gulfstream fared better than Gulfstream-Hialeah over a Florida winter.
Naturally, the people who operate Gulfstream see no reason to be that agreeable, even if it is for the overall good of the state treasury.
Under the current agreement, the two tracks will alternate dates for four winters. Then the politician will get involved again. Which is why perharps, Hialeah now begins its meeting with the Tallahassee Handicap. Tallahassee, the state capital, is where the important decision concerning Florida racing are made, a fact of [WORD ILLEGIBLE] that never escaped the Gulfstream management but one to which the Hialeah owners seem to have been oblivious for many years.