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Seattle Slew was not a typical champion

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Slew was 1st undefeated Triple Crown winner
By Lisette Hilton
Special to

Signature Race
June 11, 1977 - The Belmont Stakes wasn't Seattle Slew's finest race. But it was the race that put Slew into the history books.

The 2-5 favorite arrived in the paddock six minutes late, nine minutes before it was time to leave for the track instead of the customary 15 minutes in which to be saddled and prepared for action. But once the gates opened for the race, Slew was on time, quickly taking command.

Leading all the way in the field of eight, Slew went unchallenged. With 20 yards to go, his jockey, Jean Cruguet, stood up in the stirrups, raised his right arm over his head, and jubilantly waved his whip to the crowd of more than 70,000 in a victory salute. Slew finished four lengths ahead of runner-up Run Dusty Dusty Run and covered the mile and a half in 2:29 3/5 over what was officially labeled a muddy track, though the strip was actually wet-fast. He earned $109,080 of the $181,800 purse.

In winning his ninth race without a defeat, Slew become the 10th horse to gain the Triple Crown, but the first to record the accomplishment without ever losing. By comparison, Secretariat had lost three times when he won the Triple Crown four years earlier.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Seattle Slew's father Bold Reasoning, who had won 8-of-12 races, commanded $5,000 to breed with My Charmer.

  • Jim Hill wanted to buy Seattle Slew because he noticed that the thoroughbred had solid, heavy bones. This would enable the horse, he thought, to remain healthy galloping at speeds of close to 40 miles an hour throughout the two-year-old season without developing bucked shins and other injuries.

  • Seattle Slew went to Saratoga in the summer of 1976 for his first race, which never materialized because the horse suffered an injury to his leg. Still, that's where Jean Cruguet expressed interest in riding Slew.

  • In the Champagne Stakes, a prestigious competition for two-year-olds, Slew easily beat For the Moment, who had won 4-of-6 races.

  • Despite being undefeated going into the 1977 Kentucky Derby, Seattle Slew had his share of detractors. Many said that he was a short horse, meaning he didn't have the endurance to win the Derby's mile and a quarter.

  • The negativity didn't stop people from betting on the Slew. One million dollars was bet on Seattle Slew at the Derby; that was more than on any horse in the previous 102 derbies.

  • Even after winning the Derby, Slew hadn't yet wowed the media. His critics compared the large-bodied Seattle Slew to the sleek Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner.

  • In the three races Seattle Slew lost, he came in second twice and fourth.

  • In his 17 races, Seattle Slew went off at better than even money 14 times.

  • The highest payoff on him for winning was his first race when he returned $7.20.

  • One of Seattle Slew's trademarks was a headpiece he wore when he went to the track for a gallop or race. Shaped like an inverted Y, the device was designed to keep a horse's tongue under the bit.

  • His first crop at stud included Landaluce, who won the 1982 Hollywood Lassie Stakes by 21 lengths in 1:08, the fastest time ever recorded by a two-year-old at Hollywood Park. Landaluce, though, died that fall of a bacterial infection.

  • In 1985, a half-brother to Seattle Slew, Seattle Dancer, was sold for a record price of $13.1 million at the Keeneland July yearling sale.

  • A.P. Indy, a Seattle Slew offspring, was Horse of the Year in 1992 and commanded a six-figure stud fee.

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