Seattle Slew was foaled at Ben Castleman's White Horse Acres on February 15 of 1974. The dark bay colt was by Bold Reasoning, a grandson of Bold Ruler, and out of the stakes winning mare My Charmer, a female line descendant of the great race mare Myrtlewood. At the time, his breeding seemed modest, but My Charmer has since produced Lomond, who won the 2000 Guineas in England, as well as the group I stakes winner Seattle Dancer.
Seattle Slew, not being a son of either Northern Dancer or then leading sire What a Pleasure, was purchased for the bargain price of $17,500 at the Keeneland Summer Yearling Sale by Mrs. Karen Taylor and her husband Mickey in partnership with Dr. and Mrs. Hill. At the same sale in 1985, Slew's half-brother Seattle Dancer was sold for more than thirteen million dollars. The dark bay son of Bold Reasoning was named in honor of his new owners' two home towns. The Taylors were from Seattle, and the Hills were from an especially soggy area in the damp state of Florida, where a swamp is often called a slew, hence the name Seattle Slew.
When Seattle Slew began training with Billy Turner and his wife Paula at their facility in Maryland, he was clumsy, and rarely got anything right. Since his right foreleg curved slightly outward, Slew always swayed to the outside when galloping. Paula Turner nicknamed him Baby Huey, after a particularly ungraceful cartoon character, but he grew out of the name when he began turning heads at Saratoga as a two-year-old. He turned in several fast works under exercise rider Mike Kennedy, and Red Smith wrote that he had "put every watch in upstate New York out of whack."
A minor stable injury kept Seattle Slew from going to post at Saratoga, and another two-year-old, the appropriately named For the Moment, dominated the juvenile division, taking both the Futurity and Cowdin Stakes. Jean Cruguet, however, told fellow riders that he had seen a horse that was far superior to the young star.
Running for the first time at Belmont Park, Seattle Slew broke his maiden at first asking, winning by five lengths. He repeated his performance the next time out. After the two easy wins, Seattle Slew met the highly regarded For the Moment in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont. Despite the doubt expressed by his trainer, who felt that Seattle Slew needed more experience before he was ready for a major stakes race, the lightly raced colt easily ended For the Moment's fifteen minutes of fame, winning by nine lengths and lowering the stakes record to 1:34 2/5. His undefeated record of 1976, together with his impressive victory in the Champagne Stakes, allowed Seattle Slew to successfully claim the Two Year Old Championship.
The year 1977 found Seattle Slew, now called the "People's Horse," as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby. In a seven furlong debut, Slew set a new Hialeah track record of 1:20 3/5. He reinforced his dominance with effortless triumphs in both the Flamingo Stakes and Wood Memorial Invitational Stakes. Critics argued that the young star was a "short horse," and he was too lightly raced to be ready for the Derby. The large crowd at Churchill Downs on race day, combined with Slew's limited racing experience, contributed to his nervousness in the paddock. The favorite's agitation and foamy sweat seemed to prove the doubters right in the post parade, and many expected Seattle Slew to tire early.
Jean Cruguet nearly lost his seat when Seattle Slew hit his face on the starting gate at the break, and For the Moment sprang to the early lead. Despite the incident, Slew recovered gained the lead within the first quarter, and won the Run for the Roses with impressive style while the early leader faded badly. Seattle Slew's record remained unblemished. Asked about his colt's performance, trainer Billy Turner responded:
"He broke slowly. He was shut off immediately. He had to overcome adversity. And then he went on to do what he was supposed to do. That's the sign of a racehorse."
Two weeks later Seattle Slew took the Preakness with the same impressive style, running the fastest opening mile in the race's history and defeating Iron Constitution, Run Dusty Run, and J.O. Tobin. The mile and a half Belmont Stakes, his greatest challenge to date, proved to be no contest. By sweeping the 1977 Triple Crown Slew became the first Triple Crown winner to remain undefeated through the classics. Also, as a graduate of the Keeneland Summer Yearling Sale, he became the first Triple Crown winner to be purchased at an auction, eight of the other nine having been raced by their breeders, while Sir Barton was purchased privately as a two-year-old.
Offers began pouring in for the Triple Crown winner, with one Texas syndicate offering fourteen million dollars for the champion. His owners sold tee-shirts, cocktail glasses, and Slew Rings while their horse posed for many advertisements. When racetracks offered $100,000 purses, trainer Billy Turner said the horse deserved a break. But Mickey Taylor and the rest of the Slew Crew seemed to think that their undefeated horse was invincible. As a result, Seattle Slew wasn't unbeaten for long. The European champion J.O. Tobin outran the tired horse when he was raced in the Swaps Stakes, against the advice of his trainer, only two short weeks after the Belmont.
The Taylors and Hills took more criticism for Slew's unsuccessful entry in the Swaps Stakes than Rex Ellsworth took for Swaps' entire career. When Mr. Turner told reporters that Seattle Slew should never have been entered in the race, Mickey Taylor fired him. Following his defeat, Seattle Slew suffered series of respiratory infections that threatened his career. Despite his absence from racing during the latter half of the season, Seattle Slew was named Horse of the Year.
Slew had still not returned to the races when he contracted a virus that nearly proved fatal. Fortunataely, the racing world was spared the tragedy, and Seattle Slew was back in 1978, with a new trainer. Doug Peterson conditioned him to win a pair of allowance races Saratoga and Aqueduct, but he was beaten by a neck in the Meadowlands' Paterson Handicap when he gave away fourteen pounds to Dr. Patches, that season's Champion Sprinter.
Then came the season's highlight. Seattle Slew and Affirmed, the 1978 Triple Crown winner, became the first two Triple Crown winners to meet on the racetrack when Seattle Slew beat the younger champion by three lengths in the Marlboro Cup, despite a jockey change. Jean Cruguet had always ridden him before, but after he commented that he didn't think Seattle Slew was ready for the Marlboro, the Taylors fired him and hired Angel Cordero, Jr.
After scoring in the Marlboro, Seattle Slew and Angel Cordero scored an easy victory over Exceller and It's Freezing in the Woodward Stakes, leading from start to finish and finally winning by four lengths in the track record time of 2:00. Slew's next start came in the 1978 Jockey Club Gold Cup, and despite a narrow loss it was one of his finest performances. After battling with Affirmed through the early fractions, Seattle Slew gamely held on in the grueling stretch drive, but was nosed out by Exceller, while Affirmed, suffering tack problems, ran fourth. This race made Exceller the only horse to defeat two Triple Crown winners. An outstanding performer himself, Exceller is a member of the Hall of Fame.
In Seattle Slew's final start, he went from wire to wire, easily winning the Stuyvesent Handicap by three and a quarter lengths. When he was retired, Slew had won fourteen races, earning $1,208,726. A syndicate paid twelve million dollars for the great horse, and Seattle Slew spent most of his stud career at Three Chimney's Farm near Lexington, Kentucky, his fee reaching $100,000.
To say that Seattle Slew is an extremely successful sire is somewhat of an understatement. He led the sire's list in 1984, and has had many notable offspring.
One of his best sons was the 1984 Three Year Old Champion Swale, who carried the silks of the great Claiborne Farm into the winner's circle of Churchill Downs to claim their first Kentucky Derby trophy.
As a two-year-old, Swale stood in the shadow of his stablemate, James P. Mills' divisional champion Devil's Bag. Both colts were trained by Woody Stephens, and Swale was repeatedly referred to by the press as "Stephen's Other Horse," while Devil's Bag, undefeated as a juvenile and syndicated for a record 36.4 million dollars, was hailed as a wonder horse. When The Devil ran a stunning fourth behind Time for a Change in the Flamingo Stakes, with his archrival Dr. Carter finishing second, the Kentucky Derby picture was blurred. Swale then beat Dr. Carter in a hotly contested Florida Derby. After Devil's Bag was retired with a hairline fracture, Swale inherited his position as a top Derby contender. A pair of D. Wayne Lukas trained fillies, Althea and Life's Magic, received honors as the post time favorites at Churchill Downs, but Swale prevailed to take the roses by three and a quarter lengths.
After disappointing behind Gate Dancer in the Preakness Stakes, the Claiborne runner scored a four length triumph in the Belmont Stakes, the third of five straight wins in the classic race for trainer Woody Stephens. Swale had won nine of his fourteen starts, running out of the money only once and earning $1,583,661. Only a few days later, the racing world was shocked and saddened by the colt's mysterious death at Belmont Park. Having returned from a morning work, the horse collapsed suddenly and died. After an inconclusive autopsy, the dual classic winner was brought home to Claiborne and buried.
Also among Seattle Slew's champion sons and daughters are multimillionaire and Hall of Fame member Slew o' Gold, the unbeaten filly Landaluce, who was on her way to stardom when she died of a viral infection late in her two-year-old year, and 1992 Belmont Stakes winner and Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, as well as the top horses Capote, Digression, Lakeway, Adored, Slewpy, Septieme Ciel, Slew City Slew, and Tsunami Slew. Seattle Slew's daughters have produced top horses as well, most notably two time Horse of the Year Cigar.
Seattle Slew passed away in May of 2002, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his Kentucky Derby victory. Plagued with failing health during his final year, the champion had been recovering from surgery when he took a turn for the worse. Those who loved him were in attendance during his final hours.
|Bold Reasoning||Boldnesian||Bold Ruler||Nasrullah|
|Reason to Earn||Hail to Reason||Turn-to|
|Sailing Home||Wait a Bit|
|My Charmer||Poker||Round Table||Princequillo|
|Fair Charmer||Jet Action||Jet Pilot|
Read Seattle Slew by Dan Mearns
Seabiscuit: An American Experience on DVD
Recommended titles include: Champions from the Daily Racing Form, Thoroughbred Champions: Top 100 of the 20th Century from Blood-Horse, and Man O' War: Thoroughbred Legends #1 by Edward L. Bowen, as well as Seabiscuit on DVD .
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