May 25, 1977 - The Blood-Horse
Seattle Slew accomplished what only Regret, Morvich, and Majestic Prince had done before him-win the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) to remain unbeaten. Now his owners set their sights on Baltimore and a chance to join a more exclusive club.
"Slew came out of the Derby remarkably well considering all he had gone through," said Mickey Taylor, who raced the colt with his wife, Karen, and Dr. Jim Hill and his wife, Sally. "We took him to the track the next day, and he acted fine. We couldn't have been happier."
Taylor, a relative newcomer to the sport, also received a bit of advice at Churchill Downs from veteran breeder/owner E.P. Taylor of Canada. Taylor, who won the 1964 Derby and Preakness with Northern Dancer, stood the son of Nearctic at stud and watched him become the world's most valuable stallion,
"He told me to make sure we keep a piece of him when he goes to stud. He'll make a terrific sire," Taylor said.
Returned to his home base at Belmont Park, Seattle Slew showed his readiness by working seven furlongs in a sharp 1:224/5 six days before the Preakness (gr. I). He arrived at Pimlico several days before the race, and the turmoil that surrounded Slew the days before the Derby was absent.
"Chick Lang of Pimlico saw to that," said Taylor, who helped set up his parents, Chester and Leola, in a hotel across the street. "Everything there went smoothly."
With few worries, the Taylors, Hills, and trainer Billy Turner directed their attention to Slew's eight rivals. Only two from the Derby, runner-up Run Dusty Run and longshot field horse Sir Sir, took up the challenge again. The remaining six rivals were led by English champion 2-year-old colt J. O. Tobin, plus Cormorant and Iron Constitution.
The Preakness broke new ground with J. O. Tobin. Never before had an English champion 2-year-old started in a U.S. Triple Crown event.
Although possessing championship credentials, Maryland-bred J. O. Tobin was short on experience racing on dirt. He had started just once over that surface, finishing second in a six-furlong exhibition race against three rivals at Santa Anita in March. His final Preakness prep, in the April 30 Coronado Handicap at Hollywood Park, came on grass. Under jockey Bill Shoemaker, J. O. Tobin won the mile race in 1:342/5, only two-fifths of a second off the course record.
Cormorant, who missed the Derby because of a fever, was looking to start a new win streak. The colt had his seven-race win streak stopped with a nose loss to 35-1 Iron Constitution in the May 14 Withers Stakes (gr. II) at Aqueduct. Trainer Jim Simpson was pleased with Cormorant's effort and liked the colt's chances so much that he had "Slew Who?" T-shirts made.
Simpson, along with a record Preakness crowd and a national television audience, found out exactly who Slew was entering the far turn. Under jockey Jean Cruguet, Seattle Slew pulled away from Cormorant and remained in front to win in time two-fifths of a second slower than the stakes record set by Canonero II in 1971. Slew's time, 1:542/5, equaled Secretariat's official clocking.
With the Preakness now under his belt, Seattle Slew joined Majestic Prince in the unbeaten Derby/Preakness club. Three weeks later, Seattle Slew would create a club that few thought possible.