Seattle Slew, horse racing’s lone remaining living Triple Crown winner, passed away on May 7, 2002 at the age of 28. Already ranked among the all time greats by virtue of this accomplishment alone, Slew is even more notable as the only Triple Crown winner to go undefeated as a three year hold. He came from humble beginnings, bought at public auction–the only Triple Crown winner to be acquired in this manner. After retiring to stud in’78 he remained a very profitable horse based on a stud fee of $300,000. His offspring earned over $76 million dollars at the race track and include over 100 stakes race winners including’84 Kentucky Derby champion Swale.
The Seattle Slew story began very modestly at a public auction in Lexington, Kentucky. The Keeneland Summer Yearling sale wasn’t supposed to be the marketplace of champions, and the idea that this particular horse would ever amount to anything other than a farmhand was downright laughable. Slew looked clumsy, due primarily to a right forefoot that splayed outward and resulting in a shuffling gait at a trot. He also wasn’t a majestic beast like his predecessor by a few years, Secretariat. Slew was borderline ugly. So ungainly a creature was he that he was given the less than inspiring nickname “Baby Huey” by the Keeneland staff. He was purchased by two couples (Karen and Mickey Taylor and Jim and Sally Hill) for $17,500. What wasn’t apparent at the yearling sale was the intangibles that make up a championship thoroughbred–poise under pressure, love of competition, toughness, heart and desire. The Taylor’s and Hill’s had stumbled onto an equine Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan who’s competitive fire quickly became apparent to the trainers that worked with him and the jockeys that rode him. His first race came at Belmont in’76, and the three races he entered–and won–as a 2 year old gave a hint of what was to come.
Slew quickly became a horse to watch as a three year old as he won three Derby prep races including the Wood Memorial. In the Derby, Slew got off to a terrible start as he stumbled out of the gate. He recovered from the miscue and essentially bulled his way through a pack of horses to lead at the 1/4 mile pole. Slew would win the Derby by a length and 3 quarters. He took another tough victory at the Preakness before clinching the Triple Crown with a 4 length victory in the Belmont Stakes.
Slew continued to campaign as a four year old, but in the days before the Breeder’s Cup there weren’t many opportunities for an older horse. He retired to stud in’78, where he sired champions such as the aforementioned Swale and’92 Belmont Champ AP Indy. Slew stood at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky from’85 until early 2002 when he was moved to Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Lexington, KY following a spinal operation.
Slew may not have earned the appreciation he deserved in his prime, coming so closely on the heels of the charismatic’73 Triple Crown winner Secretariat–arguably the greatest thoroughbred race horse in history. The jockeys that rode him, however, understood fully what a special animal they were dealing with. Jockey Angel Cordero gave Seattle Slew this lofty praise: “If I had a chance to take any horse in the world, if someone said your life is depending on riding one horse to win, I would take (Slew). I rode 44,000 horses, but he was special, he was different. He was muscled, like a wrestler. He ran different than any other horse. It was like he came from another planet.”
Slew was laid to rest at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in Lexington, under a statue.
Ross Everett is a freelance writer and highly respected authority on sports betting odds comparison. He writing has appeared on a variety of sports sites including sports news and sportsbook directory sites. He lives in Las Vegas with three Jack Russell Terriers and a kangaroo. He is currently working on an autobiography of former interior secretary James Watt.