I think there were more intriguing variables during that race than any other I am aware of. Slew was hyper to such extent he broke through the gate before the start and went quite a distance before being pulled back and reloaded. Recently I found the Miami Herald sports section from the day following that race. I saved lots of papers after major sporting events in that era. Former trainer Billy Turner was emotional and livid after the defeat. He said it was senseless for Slew to be trained that way and ridden that way. Turner called Cordero a whoop de do jockey, or something like that, implying that it was idiotic to get into a speed duel. Turner said Slew was 15 lengths better than Affirmed at a mile and a half. Obviously that's emotional exaggeration but Turner was trying to make the point that Slew didn't need to chase Affirmed or dash out of the gate at that distance. I wish I had the exact quotes in front of me. I found maybe 150 old '70s to early '80s papers in a trunk a few weeks ago and that one is bunched among them, all yellowing and fragile.Equipoise wrote: ↑Tue Aug 13, 2019 11:01 pmSeattle Slew in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup. He sprinted for the full mile and a half, battled a fresh Exceller all through the stretch and only lost by a nose. A stride after the wire, he was in front again.
Bill Shoemaker, who rode Exceller, said after the race, “When I hit the stretch I thought I had it won by 10 lengths. Because horses can’t do what Slew just did.”
Laz Berrera didn't want a rerun of the Marlboro Cup in which Slew coasted on an easy lead. Barrera not only entered Life's Hope as rabbit to help Affirmed, but he told Life's Hope's jockey to get alongside Slew and scream at him throughout the race. That is seldom remembered or mentioned but it probably contributed to the suicidal fractions.
I've always believed Affirmed recognized Slew as the horse he couldn't catch in the Marlboro Cup. That's why Affirmed joined the duel instead of lounging further back. Just a theory but I've never heard a better one. Affirmed was accustomed to catching anything in front of him. Barrera always emphasized what a smart horse he was.
Shoemaker wasn't the only one who thought he would win by daylight at the top of the stretch. Miami Herald turf writer Luther Evans -- who attended the race and wrote the articles -- said he briefly turned his his head and didn't want to watch when Exceller caught Slew. Evans used the same estimate, that it would be a 10 length margin. He thought it would be sad for Slew to lose in that fashion so he looked away. Evans said only after a few seconds did he see out of the corner of his eye that Slew had regrouped, so he turned and watched fully again.
I remember Andrew Beyer's Sunday lead in the Washington Post: "Exceller won Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup. Seattle Slew was its hero."