1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, shown here in September with majority owner Mickey Taylor, will return to the breeding shed at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky.

1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, shown here in September with majority owner Mickey Taylor, will return to the breeding shed at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky.

Associated Press/Rob Carr

Seattle Slew Returning to Breeding Shed

Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew is heading back to the breeding shed in 2001 after recovering from neck surgery in April and passing recent semen tests that indicate his fertility problems were temporary.

Robert Clay, owner of Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., where the 26-year-old former champion resides, called the development "a great Christmas present -- for him and for us." Clay said he expects Seattle Slew to be bred to a book of 46 mares on share holder or breeding right holder seasons. "One or two shareholders have indicated to me they will put their seasons on the market and the price they have mentioned is $300,000 guaranteed live foal," Clay said.

Last January, a lack of coordination was detected in the 1977 Triple Crown winner, but he began the breeding season on schedule in mid-February, with seven of the first nine mares he covered getting in foal. The neurological problem was treated, but Seattle Slew's fertility worsened, and on March 27 it was announced that he would be pulled out of the breeding shed and undergo surgery. It was speculated at the time that his reduced fertility might be associated with treatment for the neurological problem, and fertility collections and analysis done this week (Dec. 11 and 12) showed Seattle Slew's semen quality was back to normal. "Indeed, if anything, his semen quality is perhaps even a little better than the start of the breeding season last year..." said Dan Rosenberg, general manager of Three Chimneys.

"At this point, we feel good about his having a normal book for a stallion of his age," Rosenberg said. "We will maximize breeding opportunities for the stallion by recommending that mares come to Three Chimneys prior to ovulation and remain until the optimum breeding time for each mare."

The surgery, conducted April 2 at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, involved a procedure known as anterior inter-body fusion using a Bagby Basket. The fusing of a joint between two vertebrae in his neck alleviated spinal cord compression caused by arthritic changes in the oldest living Kentucky Derby winner. He recovered quickly under the watchful eye of a team of veterinarians, Three Chimneys staff (including Tom Wade, his groom for 20 years), and Mickey and Karen Taylor, majority owners of the stallion who bought a house not far from Three Chimneys to be closer to Seattle Slew. At the time of the surgery, however, no one at Three Chimneys would speculate on whether Seattle Slew would ever return to breeding.

"Slew's libido is excellent and we continue to be amazed by his remarkable physical recovery," Mickey Taylor said when the announcement was made that the horse will breed again in 2001. "I can't say enough about the team of veterinarians involved in this case. From the surgery in early April through the eight months of follow-up care and still on-going care and consultation, Drs. Jim Morehead, Barrie Grant, Terry Blanchard, Bill Bernard, Joe Cannon and Norman Rantanen have been outstanding."

"We've said it before, and we say it again," Rosenberg added. "We will always seek to do what is best for Seattle Slew. He certainly will be happy to return to the breeding shed. And as long as that is in his best interests, that is what we will make possible."

Seattle Slew has sired 92 stakes winners from 19 crops, including Surfside, a leading candidate for an Eclipse Award as outstanding 3-year-old filly. Among the top runners he sired are champions A.P. Indy, Capote, Slew o' Gold, Landaluce, and Swale. A $4.2 million yearling colt by Seattle Slew topped this year's Saratoga select yearling sale.