By Ray Paulick --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.
It was nine o'clock in the morning on May 7, 2002--25 years to the day since Seattle Slew's historic victory in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). The great Thoroughbred gave one final look at his devoted owners, Karen and Mickey Taylor, who, as usual, were by his side. And with his eyes, he proclaimed, as the Sioux warriors used to before going to battle, "It is a good day to die."
The odds of a horse becoming a champion are huge. So are the odds of a horse becoming a prominent stallion. Now, imagine the odds of a horse becoming a great champion and a great stallion. Now, take it to its maximum. Imagine the odds of a horse becoming a truly great champion and stallion. It was those odds, which Seattle Slew beat on both the racetrack and at stud in such a commanding way, that made him such a legend.
John Polston was one day shy of his 57th birthday when he received a call from Seattle Slew's co-owner Karen Taylor, informing him that the great horse he had rubbed for two years had died at 9 o'clock that morning. It was 25 years to the day since Slew's victory in the 1977 Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Billy Turner said the late Seattle Slew stood alone in comparison to racing's other Triple Crown winners. "He was undefeated. He set track records. He did everything he had to do." Yet Turner said some people resented the horse who won the 1977 Triple Crown, just four years after Secretariat.
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.
Seattle Slew, who was moved to John Sikura's Hill 'n' Dale Farm near Lexington from Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky., to remove stress, might not return to breeding this year, according to owner Mickey Taylor.
Central Kentucky sire Seattle Slew will undergo surgery this week, and his return, if ever, to stallion service will depend upon what is in the best interests of the horse, according to a press release by Three Chimneys Farm owner Robert N. Clay on behalf of stallion manager Mickey Taylor and syndicate members
Seattle Slew, the 27-year-old stallion who stands at Robert Clay's Three Chimneys Farm, was represented by his 100th stakes winner when Slow Down won the Hillsborough Handicap at Bay Meadows on Saturday
Last year's Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale topper, a Seattle Slew colt named Distinction purchased for $4.2 million by Californian David Shimmon, was soundly beaten in his second career start, a six-furlong maiden special weight race for 2-year-olds at Saratoga on Thursday. The winner of the race was first-time starter Coach Knight, an Anthony Dutrow-trained son of Editor's Note who was a $75,000 purchase at an Ocala Breeders' Sales Company 2-year-old sale this March.
Taylor Made Farm stallion Saint Ballado sired the $4-million session topper on the Monday night opener to the Keeneland July select yearling sale, but Three Chimneys Farm's venerable Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew was leading sire by average on the evening, with two colts selling for an average price of $1,925,000.
Seattle Slew, back in the breeding shed after major surgery last year, has gotten 19 mares in foal from 22 reported covers as of April 19. "He is doing unbelievably well," said Mickey Taylor, who owns and is the syndicate manager of the son of Bold Reasoning. "He is a very happy horse and pleased to be back at work. He's feeling better all the time. In the past month or two he's gotten a lot stronger, and neurologically he's gotten better as well."
The first mare bred to Seattle Slew this breeding season was pronounced in foal Monday. The mare, Dreams of Success, a 4-year-old maiden mare by Dixieland Band, is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Craig Bandoroff's Denali Stud and was covered by the Triple Crown winner at Robert N. Clay's Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky.
A Seattle Slew colt produced from the grade I winner Chic Shirine was purchased by Irish agent Demi O'Byrne for $1-million as the top priced offering during the early portion of Tuesday's Fasig-Tipton Florida selected 2-year-olds in training sale at Calder Racecourse. O'Byrne said the colt had the best pedigree of the offerings in the sale and had a nice workout during the under tack show, getting an eighth of a mile in 10 3/5 seconds. O'Byrne said the colt will be trained by Patrick Biancone for John Magnier and Michael Tabor.
A Gulch colt established what was believed to be a record for the Fasig-Tipton Florida juvenile sale when he zipped a quarter-mile in :21 1/5 seconds Sunday at Calder Race Course. The workout was the highlight of the second and final under tack show for the 2001 edition of the Florida auction, which will be conducted Tuesday.
Seattle Slew bred his first mare of the 2001 breeding season on Monday morning, February 12 -- opening day for the Three Chimneys breeding shed. Seattle Slew successfully bred Dreams of Success, a 4-year-old maiden mare by Dixieland Band owned by Denali Stud and Barry Weisbord. "Seattle Slew bred confidently and aggressively, and physically seems to be in great shape for the breeding season," commented Three Chimneys Farm stallion manager Sandy Hatfield.
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.
The 2001 stud fee for Rahy, this year's fourth-leading North American sire by money earned, will nearly double from his 2000 fee, rising to $75,000. The 15-year-old stallion, who stands at Three Chimney's Farm near Midway, Ky., stood for an advertised fee of $40,000 in 2000.
Fasig-Tipton's annual Saratoga yearling auction ended with plenty of fireworks Thursday night: a Seattle Slew colt whose $4.2 million hammer price was the second-highest in the sale's history; a filly by Hennessy selling for $1.8 million, the highest filly price since the high-flying 1980s; and a final session average of almost $400,000.