Look of Eagles
Updated: Tuesday, May 14, 2002 4:43 PM
Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2002 4:43 PM
Sometimes it's easy to forget what's important about the game. People can argue long into the night about seemingly important issues like marketing, takeout rates, or medication and drug testing, but then a remarkable talent like Seattle Slew comes along and reminds everyone that the horse is king of this sport.
The 1977 Triple Crown winner was something special, and knew it. He always had a little swagger in his walk, but when someone accomplishes what this great champion did, on the racetrack and in the breeding shed, that's perfectly
You want speed? The son of the Bold Ruler-line stallion Bold Reasoning went a mile in 1:34 2/5 winning the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) as a 2-year-old, then zipped an opening half-mile in :44 en route to winning his 3-year-old debut in March 1977. Two months later he pummeled his Kentucky Derby (gr. I) opponents with a front-running victory after missing the break.
Courage? After hooking up with 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed and setting sizzling half-mile and six-furlong fractions of :45 1/5 and 1:09 2/5 in that year's 1 1/2-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I), Seattle Slew battled late-running Exceller the length of the Belmont Park stretch, losing to that distance specialist by a nose. As co-owner Mickey Taylor said, "Slew won everything but the money."
Slew was just as fast out of the gate in the breeding shed as he was on the racetrack. Landaluce, the 2-year-old champion filly of 1982, added to Seattle Slew's legend when she burst onto the scene so brilliantly from his first crop of foals. He's had staying power, too. Last year, Seattle Slew was represented by four grade I winners in the U.S., more than any other sire.
Slew wasn't perfect, losing for the first time in the Swaps Stakes (gr. I) at Hollywood Park, a race run just three weeks after he became the first horse to sweep through the Triple Crown with an unblemished record. He was a tired horse in the Swaps, finishing a soundly beaten fourth. The people around Slew can be faulted more than the horse for his defeat that day.
The courage Seattle Slew showed on the racetrack carried over into his final years. He battled back from two operations to fuse vertebrae in his neck, always showing class. Dan Rosenberg, president of Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky., where Seattle Slew stood for the majority of his career, said it best: "Everything he ever did in his life he did with class and professionalism."
Everyone who crossed the horse's path seems to have a special memory of the champion. Following Seattle Slew's death May 7, we asked our online community to contribute their remembrances, and were overwhelmed by the hundreds of responses that came from Slew fans in North America and throughout the racing world. Their heartfelt comments can be found at www.bloodhorse.com/slew.
A sampling of the tributes:
"He was the poster child for hope, representing a world in which any fan could dream of owning a really great one, and in which a blue collar hero could set his own standards of greatness."
"Slew took me from racing enthusiast to someone who had it in their blood...today, my wife and I own an 88-acre farm with 18 Thoroughbreds."
"Since I have been in the business for almost all of my 50 years, you come to know that some horses, very few, have that certain look that tells you they are something special. Some people call it the 'look of eagles.' Whatever it is called, Slew had it."
"He wasn't Secretariat, but he didn't have to be. He made his own history on the track and through his sons and daughters. He was the ugly duckling yearling who became a champion. He truly was the whole package as far as Thoroughbreds go."
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