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 1978 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 1984 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. He was somewhat clumsy looking due to a front right forefoot splay and had a shuffling gait at trot. Slew wasn't a beautifully majestic creature like his Triple Crown winning predecessor, 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. His owners had unwittingly stumbled onto an equine Muhammad Ali, and his competitive fire quickly became apparent to his trainers and jockeys. His first race came at Belmont Park in 1976, and he entered--and won--three races as a two year old giving a glimpse as to what like ahead.
As a three year old, he quickly gained notice by winning his three Derby prep races, including the prestigious Wood Memorial. In the Derby, Slew got off to a terrible start as he stumbled from the gate much like War Emblem did in the 2002 Belmont. Unlike 2002's Triple Crown contender, however, Slew was able to recover from that miscue and basically force his way through a pack of other horses to position himself at the front of the field at the quarter mile pole. He went on to win the Derby by a length and 3 quarters. Another tough victory in the Preakness set up his Triple Crown winning run at the Belmont, which he won by 4 lengths.
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 1978, where he sired champions such as the aforementioned Swale and 1992 Belmont Champ AP Indy. Slew stood at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky from 1985 until early 2002 when he was moved to Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Lexington, KY following a spinal operation.
Slew was in someways overshadowed during his prime by his predecessor--and arguably the greatest thoroughbred race horse in history--1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat. In hindsight, however, it has finally been noted what an exceptional horse he really was. Jockey Angel Cordero, who rode Slew during the twilight of his career noted "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."
After his death in 2002, Slew was buried at Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Lexington, Kentucky under a statue in his image.
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Ross Everett is a well known authority on thoroughbred horse racing, fencing, falconry and Internet sports betting. He serves as a staff handicapper for a number of online sports books online sports books, as well as conducting seminars on gambling theory as well as the stock market and investment strategy.
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