by Jon White
July 29, 2020
In Seattle Slew’s career debut on Sept. 20, 1976, he won a six-furlong maiden race by five lengths at Saratoga, a major-league track.
On July 28, 2020, David Peterson won his major-league debut when the left-hander led the New York Mets to an 8-3 victory over the Boston Red Sox.
David’s father, Doug Peterson, trained the great Seattle Slew during his 4-year-old campaign in 1978. I only wish Doug Peterson had been still alive to see his only child, now a pitcher for the Mets, win his major-league debut Tuesday in Boston.
I got to know Doug Peterson well during the years he trained on the Southern California circuit. He was a very friendly person. I always enjoyed chatting with him. Whenever I brought up Seattle Slew, it never failed to produce a big smile on the trainer’s face.
You can bet that if Doug Peterson were still alive, he would have had an even bigger smile on his face Tuesday after his son’s major-league victory.
Doug Peterson was only 53 when he was found dead of an apparent accidental drug overdose in his room at the Crown Plaza hotel near Hollywood Park on Nov. 21, 2004.
In Tuesday’s game as a Met, David Peterson pitched 5 2/3 innings and allowed two runs on seven hits and two walks. He struck out three.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid,” Peterson was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “I couldn’t ask for more. It all came together. One of the best days of my life and I’ll never forget this.”
Billy Turner Jr., not Doug Peterson, trained Seattle Slew when the superstar raced at 2 and 3.
As a 2-year-old, Seattle Slew won all three starts, highlighted by a 9 3/4-length tour de force in the Grade I Champagne Stakes. He was voted a 1976 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.
Seattle Slew remained undefeated through a sweep of the 1977 Triple Crown, but then lost for the first time in Hollywood Park’s Swaps Stakes. Seattle Slew finished fourth in the Swaps, 16 lengths behind the triumphant J.O. Tobin.
Even though Seattle Slew did not race again at 3 following the July 3 Swaps, he was voted 1977 Eclipse Awards as champion 3-year-old male and, more importantly, Horse of the Year, to the delight of owners Karen and Mickey Taylor and Sally and Jim Hill.
When Seattle Slew returned to the races in 1978, Doug Peterson was the new trainer.
In the Seattle Slew profile that appeared in BloodHorse’s “Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century,” David Schmitz wrote: “Peterson’s quick action at Hialeah in January of 1978 helped save the colt from a life-threatening viral disease. The colt missed only a few weeks of racing.”
Seattle Slew made his 1978 debut and first start for Peterson in a seven-furlong allowance affair at Aqueduct. The track was sloppy. Seattle Slew won by 8 1/4 lengths.
Later in 1978, Seattle Slew faced a mighty tough younger foe in 3-year-old Affirmed, the 1979 Triple Crown winner, in the Grade I Marlboro Cup Handicap at Belmont Park. It was the first meeting of Triple Crown winners in racing history. Seattle Slew won the 1 1/8-mile Marlboro by three lengths.
Seattle Slew and Affirmed had a rematch in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont on Oct. 14, but neither colt won. In what is widely considered one of the finest performances in defeat ever seen on the American racing stage, Seattle Slew resolutely came back on in the final furlong of that 1 1/2-mile event to lose by only a nose when finishing second to Exceller. Affirmed, whose saddle slipped, wound up far back in fifth among the six starters.
Following Seattle Slew’s 1978 campaign, he received another Eclipse Award as champion older male.
Seattle Slew ranks No. 8 on my list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America.
HONOR A.P. LOOKS FORMIDABLE IN SHARED BELIEF STAKES
Trainer John Shirreffs, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith and the talented Honor A.P. team up in Saturday’s Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar. The 1 1/16-mile race has drawn a field of six, but a couple of defections -- Uncle Chuck and Anneau d’Or -- are anticipated.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert told BloodHorse’s Bob Ehalt on Tuesday that Uncle Chuck is going to be scratched from the Shared Belief and “will go” to Saratoga for the Grade I Runhappy Travers Stakes. The 1 1/4-mile Travers will be run on Aug. 8.
Trainer Blaine Wright said of Anneau d’Or in Monday’s Del Mar stable notes that he “is 95% sure we’re going to scratch and go to the Ellis Park Derby.” The Runhappy Ellis Park Derby will be contested at 1 1/8 miles on Aug. 9.
Honor A.P. occupies the top spot on my current Kentucky Derby Top 10:
1. Honor A.P.
2. Tiz the Law
3. Art Collector
4. Uncle Chuck
6. Dr Post
8. Max Player
9. King Guillermo
10. Country Grammer
It was 15 years ago that Shirreffs, Smith and Giacomo captured the Kentucky Derby in a 50-1 upset. My pick to win that race, Closing Argument, would have been an even bigger upset.
And Closing Argument darn near did it.
Dismissed at odds of 71-1, Closing Argument had a half-length lead with a furlong to go. He remained in front through the last furlong until Giacomo passed him in the final yards. Giacomo prevailed by a half-length. Closing Argument finished second. Afleet Alex came in third at 9-2, a half-length behind Closing Argument.
Giacomo paid $102.60, $45.80 and $19.80 across the board.
Closing Argument paid $70.00 to place and $24.80 to show. That place payoff remains the highest in the history of the Kentucky Derby.
Afleet Alex paid 4.60 to show. He would go on to win the Preakness Stakes by 4 3/4 lengths even though he clipped heels and nearly fell coming into the stretch. Afleet Alex then won the Belmont Stakes by seven lengths.
When Honor A.P. won the Grade I Santa Anita Derby by 2 3/4 lengths on June 6, he was credited with a 102 Beyer Speed Figure. It was his fourth career start.
Giacomo did not record a triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure in his first seven career starts. When he finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, Giacomo received a 95 Beyer. He then recorded a 100 Beyer Speed Figure in his next start when he won the Kentucky Derby.
Honor A.P. takes an improving Beyer Speed Figure pattern into the Shared Belief. He posted only a 77 Beyer in his career debut, then a 91, then a 95, then the aforementioned 102 in the Santa Anita Derby.
I will not be surprised if Honor A.P. regresses a bit in the Beyer Speed Figure department this Saturday. I’m speculating that he might well get a Beyer in the high 90s in the Shared Belief, then return to a triple-digit figure in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in September.
Two of Honor A.P.’s Shared Belief opponents are the Baffert-trained pair of the highly regarded Cezanne and a seemingly reinvigorated Thousand Words.
Cezanne is two for two, but the $3.65 million auction purchase needs to improve in terms of Beyer Speed Figures in order to beat Honor A.P. In Cezanne’s two starts, he has recorded Beyer Speed Figures of 90, then 85. Honor A.P.’s most recent three Beyers all have been 91 or higher.
Cezanne currently has zero Kentucky Derby points. The first four finishers in the Shared Belief will earn 50-20-10-5 points toward the Run for the Roses. Thus, unless Cezanne wins the Shared Belief, he almost certainly would not have enough points to get into the Kentucky Derby if 20 are entered. But it does seem a possibility this year that fewer than 20 will be entered, which would open the door for Cezanne to run in the Kentucky Derby if his connections were so inclined.
As for Honor A.P., who has 120 points, he is assured a spot in the new 20-horse starting gate at this year’s Kentucky Derby regardless of what he does in the Shared Belief.
Thousand Words has 33 Kentucky Derby points. That currently puts him 18th on the list of Kentucky Derby candidates issued by Churchill Downs.
After Thousand Words won his first three career starts, he was trounced in his next two races. He lost by 11 1/4 lengths when fourth in Santa Anita’s San Felipe Stakes on March 7. Thousand Words then stumbled at the start and lost by nearly 30 lengths when 11th on a sloppy track April 11 in the Oaklawn Stakes.
In Thousand Words’ most recent start, he finished second on July 4 in the Grade III Los Alamitos Derby. The bad news was he was no match for the victorious Uncle Chuck. But the good news for Thousand Words was he did run much better in the Los Al Derby than in the San Felipe or the Oaklawn race.
MEMORIES OF SHARED BELIEF
Kudos to Del Mar for changing the name of the El Cajon Stakes to the Shared Belief Stakes in 2016. Del Mar did this even though Shared Belief raced at Del Mar only once.
In Shared Belief’s lone Del Mar start, he won the 2015 Pacific Classic by 2 3/4 lengths as a 3-year-old vs. his elders.
I am particularly glad that Del Mar has a Shared Belief Stakes because I believe the Kentucky-bred Candy Ride gelding generally does not get as much credit as he deserves.
Voted a 2013 Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male, Shared Belief officially lost twice during his 12-race career. But his only loss in terms of races he finished came after he got knocked around early as the 5-2 favorite in the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.
Without the trouble he encountered, Shared Belief might have won the BC Classic. And in all likelihood, if he had won the BC Classic, he would have been voted 2014 Horse of the Year instead of California Chrome.
The only other time Shared Belief did not come away with a victory was when he slipped at the start and then was pulled up during the Charles Town Classic on April 18, 2015. He suffered a hip injury in what turned out to be the final race of his life.
Later in 2015, while in training at Golden Gate Fields with Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, Shared Belief showed signs of colic on the morning of Dec. 3. Shared Belief was taken to a clinic at UC Davis, but surgery there could not save him.
Shared Belief’s death was both shocking and sad.
Two of Shared Belief’s owners were national radio sports talk show host and television broadcaster Jim Rome and his wife, Janet. The other members of the ownership partnership were Hollendorfer, Jason Litt, Kevin and Kim Nish, Alex Solis II and George Todaro.
The day after Shared Belief’s death, Rome discussed him with eloquence on his radio program.
“Along with my wife, Janet, we have a racing stable which is called Jungle Racing, and we are partners with a number of other owners in a number of racehorses,” Rome said. “And it’s a sport that we love. It’s a sport that we have great passion for. But it’s a sport that’s filled with some of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I’ve shared this on the air. A lot of you have come along for the ride with us over the last several years. And while some of the most thrilling and surreal moments of our entire lives have occurred in this sport, I can also argue that there are times that the lows are lower than the highs are high. And yesterday we lost our barn star Shared Belief.
“There was a video posted of Shared Belief training [at Golden Gate Fields] the day before, and he looked absolutely incredible. He was a picture of perfect health. He had been training extremely well. He actually was very close to having his first official breeze, or workout, since he was injured last spring. We were all so excited and we were so pumped for a huge comeback year in 2016 after he had fractured his hip in a race last spring.
“Then the very next morning, which was yesterday, something did not seem right. He was off. And even worse, he was showing signs of colic. Colic is one of the most common causes of death in horses. And it came so suddenly and out of nowhere. So our vets rushed in yesterday morning to treat Shared Belief. They immediately sent him to a clinic at UC Davis, where he could get the best medical attention available as quickly as possible. Emergency colic surgery was performed. Unfortunately, doctors were unable to save him. And we’re still awaiting the results of an autopsy right now.
“So one morning he looks unbelievable and the next morning he’s gone. And obviously we’re all just devastated. Shared Belief was a once-in-a-lifetime horse. A horse that was 10 for 12 lifetime. He had eight stakes wins. He had five Grade I victories. And he won the Eclipse Award for best 2-year-old male. He was a freakish talent, and a horse that was ranked No. 1 in the entire world last year before he got hurt.
“But more than any of that, more than any of the wins, any of those stats, what I’m always going to remember most about him was what a fierce warrior he was -- the little horse that feared nobody and could do anything. He was a champion in every sense of the word, a super horse from day one. And while he lived far too short of a life, he provided us with all the thrills and inspiration for a lifetime. He should go down as one of the all-time greats in my mind, and yet he was on track to accomplish so much more. But as a buddy of mine and a fellow horse owner told me yesterday, this game has no middle. It’s champagne or it’s tears. Rest in peace, champ.”
Rome then played the stretch call of Shared Belief’s victories in the 2013 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park, 2014 Los Alamitos Derby, 2014 Pacific Classic at Del Mar, 2014 Awesome Again at Santa Anita, 2015 San Antonio at Santa Anita and 2015 Santa Anita Handicap.
Shared Belief became just the second horse in history, along with Round Table, to win Santa Anita’s Malibu, San Antonio Stakes and Santa Anita Handicap.
The 2015 San Antonio was a showdown between Shared Belief and California Chrome. Shared Belief won by 1 1/2 lengths. California Chrome finished second. Thus, Shared Belief in 2015 defeated the 2014 and 2016 Horse of the Year in California Chrome.
Shared Belief put on quite a show when he easily trounced a dozen rivals in the Santa Anita Handicap. He won the 1 1/4-mile Big ’Cap by 4 1/4 lengths.
This was Trevor Denman’s stretch call of that Big ’Cap:
“And Shared Belief now comes on to take on Moreno. An eighth of a mile to go, and Shared Belief, Mike Smith never even thought about going to the stick! They’re cantering home! This is absolute poetry in motion. Ears cocked, he could go around again, could Shared Belief.”
After Shared Belief’s Big ’Cap triumph, I wrote in this: “As Shared Belief’s showy performance last Saturday continues to resonate and keeping in mind he has only a single loss in 11 lifetime starts, I just can’t help but think this is a special equine athlete who possesses the talent, class, stamina and temperament to quite possibly have won the Triple Crown last year if a foot problem had not precluded his participation in those races. I especially think this is far from a crazy notion inasmuch as California Chrome did take a good run at the Triple Crown last year, coming within a mere 1 3/4 lengths of a sweep. Yes, that’s the same California Chrome who was beaten rather convincingly by Shared Belief in the recent San Antonio Stakes.”
SHARED BELIEF GETS RESPECT ON MY TOP 100
As mentioned earlier, I have compiled a list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America. This Top 100 was inspired by BloodHorse’s ranking of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century that was announced in 1999.
My Top 100 goes beyond BloodHorse Top 100 in that I include horses to have raced in this century. Updating my Top 100 has become increasingly difficult because of having to make room for horses to have raced in this century, such as Triple Crown winners American Pharoah (No. 15) and Justify (No. 25).
There are 22 horses on my Top 100 who were not on BloodHorse’s Top 100.
Shared Belief gets quite a bit of respect on my Top 100. He is No. 36. At No. 34 is two-time Horse of the Year Curlin. At No. 35 is Arrogate, who was unbeatable from June 2016 to March 2017. At No. 37 is two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome.
I believe it’s only right to put Shared Belief a notch ahead of California Chrome on my Top 100 because Shared Belief as an even-money favorite defeated 7-5 California Chrome fair and square in the San Antonio.
Below is my up-to-date list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th and 21st Centuries to have raced in North America (in parentheses, when applicable, is where the horse ranked on BloodHorse’s list of the Top 100 Racehorses of the 20th Century):
1. Man o’ War (1)
2. Secretariat* (2)
3. Citation* (3)
4. Kelso (4)
5. Spectacular Bid (10)
6. Native Dancer (7)
7. Dr. Fager (6)
8. Seattle Slew* (9)
9. Count Fleet* (5)
10. Affirmed* (12)
11. Ruffian (35)
12. Swaps (20)
13. Phar Lap (22)
14. Forego (8)
15. American Pharoah*
16. Buckpasser (14)
17. Damascus (16)
18. Round Table (17)
19. Seabiscuit (25)
20. War Admiral* (13)
21. Tom Fool (11)
22. Colin (15)
23. John Henry (23)
26. Regret (71)
27. Exterminator (29)
28. Whirlaway* (26)
29. Cigar (18)
30. Sunday Silence (31)
31. Nashua (24)
32. Alydar (27)
33. Easy Goer (34)
36. Shared Belief
37. California Chrome
38. Gun Runner
39. Bold Ruler (19)
40. Equipoise (21)
41. Gallant Fox* (28)
42. Sysonby (30)
43. Gallant Man (36)
44. Assault* (33)
45. Armed (39)
46. Sir Barton* (49)
47. Omaha* (61)
48. Discovery (37)
49. Northern Dancer (43)
50. Ack Ack (44)
51. Majestic Prince (46)
52. Arts and Letters (67)
53. Alysheba (42)
54. Personal Ensign (48)
55. Pan Zareta
57. Rachel Alexandra
58. Stymie (41)
59. Challedon (38)
60. Busher (40)
61. Gallorette (45)
62. All Along (68)
63. Coaltown (47)
64. Sword Dancer (53)
65. Noor (69)
66. Grey Lag (54)
67. Devil Diver (55)
68. Dahlia (50)
69. Zev (56)
70. Native Diver (60)
71. Twilight Tear (59)
72. Riva Ridge (57)
73. Ta Wee (80)
74. Shuvee (70)
75. Holy Bull (64)
78. Twenty Grand (52)
80. Skip Away (32)
81. Alsab (65)
82. Point Given
83. Wise Dan
85. Lady’s Secret (76)
87. Smarty Jones
88. Susan’s Girl (51)
89. Genuine Risk (91)
91. Go for Wand (72)
92. Cicada (62)
93. Silver Charm (63)
94. Rags to Riches
95. Bald Eagle (74)
96. Slew o’ Gold (58)
97. Hill Prince (75)
99. Johnstown (73)
100. Exceller (96)
*Triple Crown winner
THIS YEAR’S BERNARD BARUCH: WAS HISTORY MADE?
Whether or not a race is a handicap is important information to know, especially for bettors.
According to the Equibase chart, the Daily Racing Form chart, BloodHorse’s stakes results and the Thoroughbred Daily News’ stakes results, last Sunday’s Grade II Bernard Baruch won by Somelikeithotbrown was a handicap race.
In the Saratoga condition book, it lists the Bernard Baruch as a “handicap stake.” It further states it was a “handicap for 3-year-olds and upward.”
But was it really a handicap race?
A handicap race is when weights are assigned rather than determined by the race conditions.
If the Bernard Baruch actually was a handicap race, then I believe racing history was made. Because if the weights for the Bernard Baruch were indeed assigned, it’s the first handicap race I have ever seen in which every horse in a race was assigned the same weight.
All six Bernard Baruch starters carried 120 pounds.
This begs the question, if the Bernard Baruch really was a handicap race and each horse was assigned 120 pounds, then what was the point of it being a handicap race? If they are all going to carry 120 pounds, why not just specify that in the conditions of the race?
MAXIMUM SECURITY WINS SAN DIEGO HANDICAP (BARELY)
Making his first start since February and first start for Baffert, Maximum Security won Del Mar’s Grade II San Diego Handicap by a scant nose last Saturday at the end of a furious battle all the way down the lane with Midcourt. Higher Power finished third, 6 1/4 lengths behind Midcourt in the field of five.
Maximum Security was bet down to 2-5 favoritism. Midcourt was sent away at 6-1, while Higher Power was 7-2.
This was Maximum Security’s first start since he won the Group I, $20 million Saudi Cup -- the richest horse race in the world -- by three-quarters of a length on Feb. 29. After the Saudi Cup, the 4-year-old Kentucky-bred New Year’s Day colt underwent a trainer change from Jason Servis to Baffert.
Yes, the San Diego was a handicap race. In the weights that were assigned, Maximum Security was handed top weight of 127 pounds. He spotted five pounds to both Midcourt and Higher Power.
To put Maximum Security’s San Diego performance into some perspective, 127 pounds was the second-most weight ever carried by a San Diego winner. The highest weight was the 131 pounds Native Diver packed in 1965 when winning the San Diego for the third consecutive year.
Competing on a track that was far from lighting fast, Maximum Security completed 1 1/16 miles last Saturday in 1:44.54.
Maximum Security was credited with a 101 Beyer Speed Figure for his San Diego victory. Something to bear in mind, his two highest Beyers came in races around one turn (111 in the Grade I Cigar Mile, 106 in the Grade III Bold Ruler Handicap at seven furlongs).
When Maximum Security has raced around two turns in this country, his Beyers have been 101 in the Grade I Florida Derby, 101 in the Grade I Kentucky Derby, 100 in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park, then 101 in the San Diego.
Based on Beyer Speed Figures, I would say that Maxiumum Security is far from a slam-dunk when he races around two turns and is asked to go 1 1/4 miles in Del Mar’s Pacific Classic on Aug. 22.
But it should be noted that Maximum Security will be helped in the Pacific Classic by the weights vis-a-vis the San Diego. The Pacific Classic is a weight-for-age race rather than a handicap race. As such, Maximum Security, Midcourt, Higher Power and all other 4-year-olds and up will carry 124 pounds in the Pacific Classic, while a 3-year-old would tote 118.
Maximum Security climbs from No. 10 last week to No. 4 this week in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll.
The Top 10 in this week’s NTRA Top Thoroughbred Poll is below:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 365 Midnight Bisou (22)
2. 335 Tom’s d’Etat (10)
3. 294 Vekoma (2)
4. 228 Maximum Security
5. 158 Zulu Alpha
6. 129 Monomoy Girl (1)
7. 113 By My Standards
8. 112 Tiz the Law (2)
9. 92 Mucho Gusto
10. 83 Code of Honor (1)
The Top 10 this week’s NTRA Top Three-Year-Old Poll is below:
Rank Points Horse (First-Place Votes)
1. 399 Tiz the Law (39)
2. 355 Honor A.P. (1)
3. 284 Authentic
4. 254 Art Collector
5. 150 Uncle Chuck
6. 129 Ny Traffic
7. 117 King Guillermo
8. 107 Gamine
9. 102 Swiss Skydiver
10. 100 Dr Post
ENABLE ENDS MINI-LOSING STREAK
Going into last Saturday’s Group I King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot, some were wondering if perhaps Enable was past her prime. After all, she had lost her final race in 2019 (second in the Group I Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe) and first race in 2020 (second in the Group I Coral Eclipse Stakes).
It was the first time in Enable’s marvelous career that she had lost two in a row.
But Enable regained her winning ways last Saturday when she won with authority by 5 1/2 lengths. This was her 14th victory in 17 lifetime starts.
Enable became the first three-time winner of the King George, a race first run in 1951. The only other two to have won this race twice are Dahlia and Swain.
The sole reason for racing Enable at age 6 in 2020 rather than retire her is for her to take another crack at becoming the first three-time winner of the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on Oct. 4. Also eyeing the Arc is Ghaiyyath, who won the Coral Eclipse by 2 1/4 lengths when Enable had to settle for second.
I am rooting for Enable to make history and win a third Arc. That would be a fantastic achievement. But I’m fully aware that turning the tables on Ghaiyyath in his present form will be far from easy.
HASKIN’S DERBY DOZEN WILL BE MISSED
I was sorry to read that Steve Haskin no longer will be writing for BloodHorse due to his contract coming to an end.
I especially will miss Haskin’s Derby Dozen. The job he did with that was exceptional. I always paid considerable attention to his Derby Dozen, not only for the rankings, which I respected, but also for the wealth of valuable information that Haskin provided.