Seattle Slew, who celebrated his 102nd stakes winner the day of this year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I), was the first horse since Native Dancer in the 1950s to win outright championships at ages two through four. Like the Gray Ghost of Sagamore, Seattle Slew lived the life of a celebrated hero long after his racetrack days.
Bred by Kentucky by Ben Castleman, Seattle Slew raced for Karen and Mickey Taylor in partnership with Dr. Jim Hill and his wife, Sally. Jim Hill picked out Seattle Slew at the 1975 Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale and the partnership took him home for $17,500. Seattle Slew was broken at Mrs. Henry Obre's farm near Monkton, Md., by Paula Turner, whose husband, Billy, later would train Slew. It was there that the gangly son of Bold Reasoning earned the nickname Baby Huey.
Seattle Slew didn't start until September of his 2-year-old season at Belmont Park. He won by five lengths, then scored two weeks later, and closed out the year with a dramatic 9 3/4-length triumph in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) in the fastest time ever for the race, 1:34 2/5, breaking Count Fleet's record set in 1942.
Sent to Hialeah for the winter, Seattle Slew won an allowance prep in record time and the Flamingo Stakes (gr. I). He was returned to New York to run in the Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) and had no trouble winning. The Kentucky Derby (gr. I), two weeks away, looked like easy pickings for the unbeaten colt whose Baby Huey nickname was long gone.
The 1-2 Derby favorite, Slew encountered difficulty in the first part of the race, but cruised home to win by 1 3/4 lengths. He became the first horse since Majestic Prince, in 1969, to remain unbeaten with a Derby win.
Seattle Slew, like Majestic Prince, went on the win the Preakness Stakes (gr. I). But in the next classic, the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), the two parted company. Whereas Majestic Prince met defeat, Slew broke new ground by winning the race to become racing's first unbeaten Triple Crown. No one has done it since.
The Taylors and Hills took their prize pupil to Hollywood Park for the Swaps Stakes (gr. I), and it was there that their wonder colt suffered his first defeat, to J. O. Tobin, a colt he had beaten in the Preakness. That was it for Slew for the year. He was named Horse of the Year, and he didn't run again until the following year.
During that time, the Turners and Hills had switched trainers, hiring Doug Peterson to replace Turner. Slew made his 4-year-old debut in May at Aqueduct and started a new win streak. He reappeared at the Saratoga meeting and won, then suffered a defeat to Dr. Patches in the Paterson Handicap (gr. III) at Meadowlands. Jockey Jean Cruguet, Seattle Slew's rider from the beginning, voiced his disapproval about the way Slew was being handled and was given the boot. Angel Cordero Jr., who rode Dr. Patches, was Slew's new rider.
Seattle Slew's next race, the Marlboro Cup Handicap (gr. I) in New York, proved historic in the sense that it was the first time two Triple Crown winners met. Affirmed, the 1978 Triple Crown winner, went off favored, but he was no match for his older rival, who won by three lengths.
Seattle Slew next won the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) in the absence of Affirmed, then met that rival again in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), along with long-distance star Exceller. In one of the most memorable of all renewals, Slew battled Exceller through the stretch, but his effort fell a nose short. Affirmed, whose saddle had slipped, finished way back. Slew closed out the year with a breather in the Stuyvesant Handicap (gr. III), winning under 134 pounds. Overall, Seattle Slew won 14 of 17 races, was second twice, and earned $1,208,726.
Seattle Slew first stood at Spendthrift Farm near Lexington, then was moved Robert N. Clay's Three Chimneys near Midway, Ky., where he sired the bulk of his stakes winners. His added-money winners include Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, plus other champions Slew o' Gold, Surfside, Kentucky Derby/Belmont winner Swale, Capote, Landaluce, and Digression (in England). Last year's Seattle Slew's daughter, Flute, won the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). As a maternal grandsire, Seattle Slew is represented by more than 100 stakes winners. Seattle Slew was moved to John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale earlier this year.