Seattle Slew: Feisty dominance

Seattle Slew was far from a cuddly, passive animal. The big, black horse's ferocity and insistence on having things his own way were key ingredients for the special magic he displayed on the track in the late 1970s as he captured an adoring audience and lifted horse racing into the national spotlight.

On a very short list of the best thoroughbreds to ever race, Seattle Slew won the 1977 Triple Crown with a perfect career record -- the only one with that distinction until unbeaten Justify won the 2018 Triple Crown.

Seattle Slew was purchased for a modest price of $17,500 as a yearling and finished his career winning eight Grade 1 stakes among his 14 victories.

Seattle Slew's Profile

  • Place of birth: White Horse Acres in Lexington, Ky
  • Lifespan: Foaled Feb. 15, 1974. Died May 7, 2002, age 28
  • Sex: Male
  • Owners: Karen and Mickey Taylor and their partners, Sally and Jim Hill and Glenn Rasmussen
  • Trainers: Billy Turner, Doug Peterson
  • Sire and Dam: Bold Reasoning, My Charmer (by Poker)
  • Jockeys: Jean Cruguet, Angel Cordero Jr.
  • Record: 17 starts: 14 wins, 2 seconds, 0 thirds
  • Career earnings: $1,208,726.

Seattle Slew's Achievements

The quickly maturing colt flashed his potential as he closed out 1976 with a convincing romp in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, clinching the title of top 2-year-old.

His eagerly anticipated 3-year-old debut checked all the boxes. In Florida, he shook up the industry when he established a track record for seven furlongs at Hialeah Park and followed that with a strong, winning performance in the Flamingo Stakes.

Seattle Slew's Wood Memorial victory, during which he extended his streak of never having trailed in any race, cemented his status as Kentucky Derby favorite. He left the Churchill Downs starting gate at 1-2 odds, and his victory continued a run into history that also counted the Preakness, Belmont Stakes, Marlboro Cup Handicap and Woodward Stakes.

Among his accomplishments:

  • National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame (inducted in 1981)

  • American Horse of the Year (1977)

  • American champion 2-year-old male (1976)

  • American champion 3-year-old male (1977)

  • American champion older male (1978)

Notable Remarks

The owners, Karen and Mickey Taylor, lived in Washington, and the Pacific Northwest influence led Karen to name her bargain buy Seattle Slew.

"Slew" referenced Mickey's logging business -- logs were sent down the rivers in chutes, also called sloughs.

Because he was so awkward as a youngster, Seattle Slew's early nickname was “Baby Huey” after the clumsy, overgrown cartoon character.

He is the lone Triple Crown winner to defeat another, having beaten Affirmed by three lengths in the 1978 Marlboro Cup.

Seattle Slew's trainer Billy Turner turned over the reins to Doug Peterson after a disagreement about whether to run the colt so quickly after his Belmont Stakes victory. And, with Doug Peterson as his new trainer, Seattle Slew was beaten soundly in the Swaps Stakes.

Although many were critical of the Taylors' decision to retire Seattle Slew, shifting him to the breeding shed after the champion's 4-year-old season, the move produced results on par with Seattle Slew's racing prowess.

He found immediate success as a stallion and has sired more than 110 stakes winners. Seattle Slew's first crop included champion Landaluce.

Seattle Slew was consistent in his preference for gray mares, according to a Blood-Horse report, which added he was "whimsical as to whether he liked bays or chestnuts on any particular day."

His son Swale won the 1984 Kentucky Derby, and son A.P. Indy became a Horse of the Year. The Taylors and Hills raced his champion son Slew o' Gold and his first winner, Slewpy.

Seattle Slew died on the 25th anniversary of his Kentucky Derby victory.