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Seattle Slew: One of the Greatest Racehorses of All Time

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I recently did a lot of research to write an article on the greatest racehorses of all time. One horse that really stood out was Seattle Slew. He was not only a talented horse but had an interesting story. So I decided to share his story in more detail.

Seattle Slew was bred in Kentucky and went on to become one of the most successful racehorses of all time. In 1977, Seattle Slew became only the tenth horse to win the Triple Crown, and his legacy continues to this day through his offspring.

Few racehorses in history have captured the public’s imagination, like Seattle Slew. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at the amazing races of Seattle Slew and how he became one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

Picture of Seattle Slew

The early life of Seattle Slew

Seattle Slew was foaled on February 15, 1974, at Ben Castleman’s White Horse Acres Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. He was sired by Bold Reasoning, who only produced three crops of foals before his death on April 24, 1975. Seattle Slew was from Bold Reasonings’ first crop.

His dam, My Charmer, was a stakes winner who was a daughter of the obscure sire Poker. Although neither of Seattle Slews’ parents had great racing careers, their bloodlines included impressive horses.

As a yearling, Seattle Slews’ owner tried to enter him in the Keeneland Select Yearling Sale but was turned away. The auction rejected the gangly colt because it was by an unproven sire, had clumsy ways, and his right foot turned out.

So, he entered Seattle Slew in the less prestigious Fasig-Tipton auction in Lexington with a $15,000 buyback. That day two couples attended the sale with the intention of buying a yearling together. They were Karen and Mickey Taylor and Jim and Sally Hill.

Mickey was a fourth-generation logger from Washington state, and Jim was a large animal veterinarian from New York. Before the auction started, Jim pointed out hip number 128, which he was convinced looked like a special horse, and the team agreed to try and buy it.

They budgeted $12,000 for their purchase. Shortly after the bidding started, the price climbed, and it wasn’t long before it was above the amount they agreed to spend. However, Karen Taylor, with an elbow to her husband’s ribs, encouraged him to stay in the bidding. The couples purchased Seattle Slew for $17,500.

The Taylors sent Seattle Slew to trainer Billy Turner, who was a hard-drinking, wisecracking former steeplechase jockey. Upon entering training, Seattle Slew was nicknamed “Baby Huey” because of his large size and ungainly appearance. However, his potential was quickly recognized by Seattle Slew’s trainers.

Origin of the name Seattle Slew.

There are a couple of stories about how Seattle Slew got his name. The one I believe is accurate is that he was named after the city of Seattle, and Slew was chosen because it is a homophone for the word “slough,” which is a waterway that loggers once used to transport heavy logs. Mickey Taylor, one of the owners of Seattle Slew, was a lumberman.

Another theory is that the owners named their horse Seattle Slew to represent the regions each couple called home. The Taylors lived near Seattle, Wash., and the Hills came from Florida, a swampy, “slewy” place.

Mickey Taylor, one of the owners of Seattle Slew, was a lumberman from Washington State. So his wife decided to name their new colt Seattle Slew. Seattle, after the largest city in Washington State and Slew because it is a homophone for the word “slough,” which is a type of waterway which loggers once used to transport heavy logs.

Picture of Triple Crown-winning jockeys, with Jean Cruguet, rider of Seattle Slew (1977) in the center.
FranceSireTV, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0,

Seattle Slews Racing Career

Seattle Slew made his racing debut on September 20, 1976, at Belmont Park in New York. He won his maiden race by five lengths as the 5-2 favorite. He next won an allowance race by  312 lengths before winning the Grade I Champagne Stakes by nine and 3/4 lengths at blazing speed and setting a stakes record.

Seattle Slew’s three dominant performances earned him Champion Two-Year-Old of 1976. In 1977 he started his three-year-old season winning at Hialeah Park Race Track by nine lengths and setting a new track record for seven furlongs.

He then won the Flamingo Stakes by four lengths. After this, he was sent to Aqueduct in New York to compete in the Wood Memorial Stakes, which Seattle Slew easily won by just over three lengths; he was never challenged in the race.

Seattle Slews Wins the Triple Crown

In 1977, Seattle Slew became the tenth Triple Crown winner and the first horse to accomplish this feat undefeated in its history. His success on the racetrack made him an instant celebrity.

Because the chestnut colt had won his previous nine races so impressively, he was the heavy favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Seattle Slew broke from the ninth position in the field of ten and quickly moved up to third place on the backstretch.

He then took the lead entering the homestretch and pulled away to win by 1 3/4 lengths. Seattle Slew’s victory in the Derby was just the beginning of an incredible streak of success. He went on to win the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, becoming the first undefeated Triple Crown winner. (2018 Triple Crown winner Justify went undefeated).

Seattle Slew’s jockey was Cruguet, a Frenchman whose career had all but stalled in the U.S. He would later be fired during the 1978 racing season for criticizing Seattle Slew’s condition after his second loss.

Picture of one of Seattle Slew's offspring Philly Slew.
Rennett Stowe from USA, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0,

Seattle Slews’ first loss.

Seattle Slew’s loss in the Swaps Stakes at Hollywood Park in 1977 was a shock to the racing world. The undefeated Triple Crown winner had won his first nine races and was the heavy favorite to win the Swaps.

However, Seattle Slew ran a sluggish race and finished fourth, ending his winning streak. The loss was a turning point in Seattle Slew’s career. It caused a riff between the owners and the trainer.

Billy Turner didn’t want Seattle to run in the Swap Stakes, he thought the horse needed a break after running in the grueling Triple Crown competition, and he let his feelings known to the racing world.

This negative publicity created hard feelings with the owners, and after the 1977 season, Billy Turner was fired and replaced with Doug Peterson. And shortly after this turmoil, Seattle Slew nearly lost his life from a blood disorder early in his 4-year-old season.

But he recovered and went on to establish his legacy in his final racing year. In what many consider to be one of Seattle Slews’ most important races, he beat Affirmed by three lengths. This historic match-up between two Triple Crown winners took place in the Marlboro Cup Championship in the fall of 1978.

Seattle Slew would also go on to win Woodward Stakes and the Jockey Club Gold Cup. He ended his career with a victory in the Stuyvesant Handicap at  Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, New York. Seattle Slew retired after his 1978 season with 14 wins of his 17 career races and won $1,208,726.

During his three racing seasons, he was named U.S. Champion 2-Yr-Old Colt (1976), U.S. Champion 3-Yr-Old Colt (1977), American Horse of the Year (1977), and U.S. Champion Older Male Horse (1978).

Picture of a racehorse running during a race.

The legacy of Seattle Slew

After his racing career, Seattle Slew became a successful stud, siring many champion racehorses. Including A.P. Indy, the 1992 horse of the year; Swale, the 1984 Kentucky Derby winner; and Landaluce, 1982 American Champion, two-year-old filly.

Of the over 1,000 offspring, he sired 111 stakes winners that earned over $75 million in prize money. Seattle Slew was awarded Leading sire in North America (1984) and twice named North American leading broodmare sire for 1995 and 1996.

His progeny continues his winning tradition; some you may know are Tapit, California Chrome, and Cigar, to name a few. Seattle Slew was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1981.

Interesting fact: Seattle Slew died on the 25th anniversary of his Kentucky Derby win at age 28, on May 7, 2002.

Conclusion

Some would say that Seattle Slew was the greatest racehorse of all time. After all, he was undefeated in his first nine starts, which is a feat that has never been matched. He also won the Triple Crown, something that only twelve other horses have ever done.

On top of that, he did it with style, winning all three Triple Crown races with confidence. Seattle Slew was also a great sire, producing numerous champions, including A.P. Indy and Swale. His legacy continues to this day, and he remains one of the most iconic racehorses in history.

Seattle Slew was an amazing racehorse who accomplished something that few others have been able to do. His story is one that will be told for generations to come, and he will always be remembered as one of the greatest racehorses of all time.

Below is a YouTube video documentary about Seattle Slew; it provides loads of great information.

FAQs

What killed Seattle Slew?

Seattle Slew died in his sleep after a second operation on the horse’s spine. He passed away while resting comfortably at home with his long-time owners, Karen and Mickey Taylor, by his side.

Did Seattle Slew ever lose?

Yes, Seattle Slew lost three races in his career. Only one time was he not in the top three, and two of his losses were by a neck and a nose. He ended his career with 14 wins and two second-place finishes out of 17 races.