Seattle Slew (February 15, 1974 - May 7, 2002) was an American throughbred race horse who won the Triple Crown in 1977-the tenth of eleven horses to accomplish the feat. He remains the only horse to win the Triple Crown while undefeated. In the Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century, he is ranked ninth.
A descendent of Nearco through his son, Nasrullah, Seattle Slew was sired by Bold Reasoning and out of My Charmer. He was foaled at Ben Casteman's White Horse Acres Farm near Lexington, Kentucky. Not expected to be a great race horse, he was sold to Karen and Mickey Taylor of White Swan, Washington.
|Breeder||Ben S. Castleman|
|Owner||Karen & Mickey Taylor|
William H. Turner, Jr.
Douglas R. Peterson
They named him for the city of Seattle and the sloughs which loggers once used to transport heavy logs. But Karn felt that the spelling of slough - a slow-moving channel of the Pacific Northwest - would be too hard for people to remember, so the spelling was changed to Slew. The colt's co-owners were Jim and Sally Hill. Another co-owner was Glenn Rasmussen, the accountant for the equine partnerships.
Seattle Slew's owners sent the colt to Billy Turner, a friend and former steeplechase rider who had trained horses seasonally in Maryland since the early 1960s. Based at Belmont Park in the mid 1970s, Turner accepted Seattle Slew and another Taylor-Hill purchase and sent them to Andor Farm in Monkton, where his wife at the time, Paula, taught yearlings to be ridden.
Seattle Slew made his first start in a six-furlong maiden race on September 20, 1976, the fifth race at Belmont Park on Long Island, New York. The big, nearly-black colt was bet down to the 5-2 favorite. He gave the public its first look at what was later called his "war dance" (his habit of tiptoeing on the track before his races) and won by five lengths. Seattle Slew only started twice more as a two-year-old, winning an allowance race on October 5, 1976, by 3-1/2 lengths, and the one mile Champagne Stakes eleven days later by 9-3/4 lengths in a fast 1:34-2/5. Despite just starting three times, Seattle Slew was named Champion Two-Year-Old Colt of 1976.
Turner scheduled just three races leading up to the Kentucky Derby. His first race as a three-year-old on March 9, 1977, when he set a seven-furlong track record at Hialeah Park Race Track in winning an allowance race by nine lengths. On March 26, Seattle Slew won the Flamingo Stakes by four lengths in the third-fastest time in the stakes' 51 year history. On April 23, he completed his Derby preparation with a 3-1/4 length victory in the Wood Memorial Stakes.
The Triple Crown
Seattle Slew went off as the 1-2 favorite in the 1-1/4 mile Kentucky Derby on May 7. A "speed horse", who normally broke well and went right to the lead, he swerved at the start and was taken up by jockey Jean Cruguet. However, the two recovered and got to the lead, dueling with For the Moment for the first mile of the race. At the top of the stretch, Seattle Slew pulled away to win by 1-3/4 lengths of Run Dusty Run.
Two weeks later, in the 1-3/16 mile Preakness Stakes, Seattle Slew faced a new rival in multiple-stakes-winner Cormorant. Many handicappers believed the predictable speed duel with Cormorant would jeopardize the Derby winner's chances; Andrew Beyer picked Cormorant to win in his Washington Post column, Seattle Slew outstayed Cormorant, holding off Iron Constitution to win by 1-1/2 lengths.
The Belmont Stakes was a coronation for the Triple Crown champion, who won by four lengths before a large, enthusiastic crowd. He became the tenth American Triple Crown winner, and (with his nine-for-nine record) was the first Triple Crown winner to finish the series undefeated.
After the Triple Crown
After the Triple Crown, Seattle Slew was sent to Hollywood Park Racetrack, which offered a $400,000 purse to lure him to run in the Swaps Stakes on July 3. In the Swaps, Seattle Slew (who normally broke on the lead, as noted above) was unable to get to the front. Jockey Bill Shoemaker sent J.O. Tobin (who Seattle Slew had defeated in the Preakness) to the lead. J.O. Tobin set fast early fractions for a 1-1/4 mile race - 22.40 for the first quarter-mile, 45.40 for the half, 1:09.20 for six furlongs, and 1:33.60 for the mile. Seattle Slew could not keep up and tired badly in the stretch, finishing fourth, 16 lengths behind J.O. Tobin. J.O. Tobin won by 8 lengths in 1:58.40, less than half a second off the American record for the distance at the time. After this loss, rest and physical problems would sideline Seattle Slew for almost a year. Despite the season-ending loss, however, Seattle Slew was honored at year's end as Champion Three-Year-Old and the Eclipse Award for American Horse of the Year.
In early 1978, Seattle Slew was stabled at Hialeah and was expected to make three starts in Florida before contesting the one-mile Metropolitan Handicap in New York. In Florida, the horse (who had recovered from a cough as a three-year-old) took a turn from the worse in January. He stopped eating, occasionally broke into hours-long sweats and sometimes fell when he tried to stand. Co-owner Jim Hill diagnosed a severe viral infection and feared for Seattle Slew's life.
The horse recovered slowly. By the time he made it back to the races on a sloppy track at Aqueduct in May, Billy Turner had been replaced by Doug Peterson as his trainer. Seattle Slew won that allowance race at Aqueduct by 8-1/2 lengths, and won another seven-furlong allowance by six lengths at Saratoga Race Course in August. In preparation for a matchup against the 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed, Seattle Slew was sent to the Meadowlands for a night race, the Paterson Handicap. He lost to Dr. Patches in a major upset. Jean Cruguet lost his mount after that race, after expressing doubt that the horse was sufficiently trained.
In the Marlboro Cup, the first matchup of two Triple Crown winners, Seattle Slew was not the favorite (for the only time in his career). Angel Cordero, Jr. took the reins as his new jockey. Affirmed was the 1-2 favorite, and Seattle Slew was the 2-1 second choice. Affirmed's arch-rival, Alydar, was scheduled to run, but he was scratched the week before the race.
Affirmed and Seattle Slew were both speed horses. Seattle Slew broke on top and there into the homestretch. Cordero put him away from the rail off the far turn; Affirmed came up on him, but Slew responded to beat Affirmed by three lengths in the time of 1:45.80 for 1-1/8 miles, .40 second off the track record set by Secretariat. Two weeks later, he won the 1-1/4 mile Woodward Stakes over Exceller by four lengths.
In October, Seattle Slew and Affirmed met again in the 1-1/2 mile Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont, which was televised nationally on the CBS network. Affirmed's trainer, Laz Barrera, did not want Seattle Slew to get to an easy lead and dictate the pace as he did in the Marlboro Cup, so he entered a "rabbit" (Life's Hope) in an attempt to tire the horse. Barrera's plan was compromised; Seattle Slew set a blistering pace, chased by Affirmed and Life's Hope. Slew drew away; Affirmed's saddle then slipped, eliminating him from contention (he finished 5th). Seattle Slew ran in fractions of 22.60 for the first quarter, 45.20 for the half, and 1:09.40 for three-quarters - very fast early times for a long race.
Sitting far back, Willie Shoemaker (on Exceller) took advantage of the fast pace. Exceller made a strong move on the far turn and saved ground by moving inside Seattle Slew as the tiring horse bore out turning for home. Exceller took the lead at the top of the stretch, but Seattle Slew fought back and lost by a nose in a photo finish. This stretch run is still remembered as among the all-time best, ranking with Sunday Silence and Easy Goer's Preakness Stakes in 1989, and the battles between Affirmed and Alydar. Despite the defeat, many analysts considered this to be Seattle Slew's greatest performance. Andrew Beyer (a skeptic of Seattle Slew when he was three) wrote for his lead, "Exceller won Saturday's Jockey Club Gold Cup. Seattle Slew was its hero."
Seattle Slew's last race was a victory under the high weight of 134 pounds (61 kg) in the Stuyvesant Handicap in November at Aqueduct Racetrack by 3-1/4 lengths. He retired with 14 wins in 17 races and earnings of $1,208,726. Seattle Slew was named Champion Older Horse in 1978 but lost Horse of the Year to Affirmed. He was elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1981.
- Champagne Stakes (1976)
- Wood Memorial Stakes (1977)
- Woodward Stakes (1977)
- Marlboro Cup (1977)
- Stuyvesant Handicap (1977)
- Flamingo Stakes (1977)
Triple Crown race wins:
- 10th U.S. Triple Crown Champion (1977)
- U.S. Champion Two-Year-Old Colt (1976)
- U.S. Champion Three-Year-Old Colt (1977)
- American Horse of the Year (1977)
- U.S. Champion Older Male Horse (1978)
- Leading Sire in North America (1984)
- North American leading broodmare sire (1995, 1996)
- NTRA "Moment of the Year" (2002)
- National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame (1981)