A profound sadness permeates Three Chimneys Farm today. Its marquee stallion Seattle Slew, who with the exception of the last 30 days was an integral part of the farm for 17 years, is gone.
"It is the end of an era for sure," said Three Chimneys general manager Dan Rosenberg. "It isn't just the farm. It is the whole industry."
The 28-year-old son of Bold Reasoning, who died in his sleep at Hill 'n' Dale Farm Tuesday, was the last living Triple Crown winner and the only Triple Crown winner to sweep the prestigious series undefeated. He was also the horse that made Three Chimneys, according to farm owner Robert Clay.
Three Chimneys landed its first stallion in 1985 with Slew O'Gold, who was owned by a partnership that included Mickey and Karen Taylor. The Taylors co-owned Seattle Slew while he raced and Mickey Taylor was Slew's syndicate manager.
"We had a six-stall stallion barn and one stallion," Clay said. "I remember being at Saratoga when Mickey said to me, 'Would you be interested in standing Slew?' My reaction was that I would fly home and bed down a stall that night. Ten days later he was here." Seattle Slew had been standing at Spendthrift Farm.
"It established us in so many ways," Clay continued. "Most important the Taylors showed the confidence in us that we could manage a big horse. It helped put us on the map, and I'm quite proud of the job we did."
Rosenberg, who has managed Three Chimneys since the beginning, described his association with Seattle Slew as a privilege.
"I don't know how to describe it. How to put my finger on it," he said. "This was not a very good horse. This was a great horse, and he knew it. He had charisma. Anybody that has been around greatness whether a horse or human is privileged."
As a gauge of how far Slew's popularity reached, Rosenberg said Three Chimneys regularly received hundreds of letters a year about the stallion. Many are from children who weren't born yet when Slew dominated the racing world.
Seattle Slew won't be buried at Three Chimneys. That honor will go to John Sikura Jr.'s Hill 'n' Dale Farm, which welcomed the stallion April 1. Seattle Slew was recuperating from a second operation on his vertebrae at the time. He was moved because his barn at Three Chimneys was too close to the breeding shed, and he would become agitated each time mares arrived.
Clay said Seattle Slew will be honored with a brass plaque on the door of his former stall. The farm has had a statue of him in its center courtyard for about eight years that will now serve as a memorial.