Slew o' Gold permitted some suspense early in his bid to win today's $584,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont Park, then accelerated to a 9 3/4-length victory that produced the largest single-day payoff in horse racing history and bolstered his horse-of-the-year credentials.
The victory, Slew o' Gold's fifth in five tries this year and 12th in 20 career attempts, gave him a $1,350,400 payoff that included a $1 million bonus for sweeping New York's three-race Fall Championship Series. He was the first horse to win the so-called fall Triple Crown.
The victory pushed the son of Seattle Slew's lifetime earnings to more than $2.8 million, second to John Henry's $6.3 million. He previously had won the Woodward and Marlboro Cup in the series.
Co-owner Mickey Taylor said Slew o' Gold now will prepare for next month's Breeders' Cup at Hollywood Park because "he deserves to be the star attraction." He said he would be willing to run Slew o' Gold against John Henry on the dirt in December, before his colt is retired to stud.
Facing only four challengers, Slew o' Gold, the 1-to-9 favorite even after stablemate Mugatea was scratched earlier today, broke from the outside post under jockey Angel Cordero Jr. and angled in behind Bounding Basque entering the first turn.
Cordero was content to keep Slew o' Gold two lengths off the extraordinarily slow pace of :25, :49 3/5 and 1:14 1/5 set by Bounding Basque. Hail Bold King, fourth to Slew o' Gold in the Marlboro Cup, stayed in third place, 3 1/2 lengths behind the leader, followed by Broadway Harry and Canadian Factor.
The order remained unchanged until the mile pole, when Slew o' Gold headed past Bounding Basque on the outside and Hail Bold King also began to move.
When they reached the final turn, Bounding Basque had nothing left. Slew o' Gold was flying on the outside, sweeping to a three-length advantage over Hail Bold King, who made an irrelevant ground-saving move toward the rail.
"With the slow early pace, it was hard to judge how fast Slew o' Gold would run, so I just sat behind him," said Hail Bold King's jockey, Eddie Maple. "I really though we were in good shape, but it seemed like the harder my horse ran the farther behind he got."
Cordero twice turned to look at his opponents midway through the stretch and never rated Slew o' Gold, who stretched his lead and covered 1 1/2 miles in 2:28 4/5, almost three seconds off his 1983 winning mark. Hail Bold King edged Bounding Basque by a length for second.
Slew o' Gold, who paid $2.20, $2.10 and $2.10, showed no ill effects from an injury inside the sole of his right front foot that required his hoof to be elevated by a special shoe. Trainer John Hertler said he was "95 to 100 percent."
Asked about running the horse with a hoof problem, Taylor told a news conference in the press box high atop the Belmont Park grandstand, "If we had gotten beat today, I would have come up here and jumped."
"When you have a horse like this with any kind of injury, you have a lot to lose and nothing to win," Cordero said. The New York insurance companies that will pay the $1 million bonus might disagree.
The Gold Cup was the main event on an outstanding card that featured nine stakes races. In the $183,000 Vosburgh Stakes (Grade I), Cordero sent 6-to-5 favorite Track Barron wide around the final turn, then overtook Timeless Native and jockey Don Brumfield in the stretch en route to a three-length victory.
In the $96,000 Kelso Handicap (Grade III), Who's For Dinner took command entering the stretch and held off late-running Pin Puller for a two-length victory.