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Tuesday, May 14
Seattle Slew dies on 25th anniversary of Derby win

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Seattle Slew, who won the 1977 Triple Crown and became one of racing's greatest sires, died in his stall May 7 at the relatively advanced age of 28.

Seattle Slew
Seattle Slew in 1997, galloping at Three Chimneys Farm in Kentucky.

The big, black stallion's death came on the 25th anniversary of his Kentucky Derby victory. He followed by winning the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes to sweep the sport's most prestigious series.

Seattle Slew was the only living Triple Crown winner. Affirmed, who became the 11th and last Triple Crown winner in 1978, died in January 2001 at 26.

Slew died in his sleep at Hill 'n' Dale Farm, where he recently was moved after a second operation on his spine, the farm said.

"He was the most complete thoroughbred the industry has seen. He just kept raising the bar with every record he broke," owner Mickey Taylor said.

Slew, who won 14 of 17 races and earned $1,208,726, had been ailing the past two years with arthritis and underwent two delicate spinal fusion operations.

ESPN Classic Remembers Seattle Slew
ESPN Classic will present SportsCentury: Seattle Slew on Thursday at 8 and 11 p.m. ET.
Last month, Slew was a bit wobbly after the second surgery, which was to "normalize," him, Taylor said. The first one, the owner said last month during an interview, "saved his life."

Bought for a bargain-basement $17,500 by Taylor, a former lumberman from Washington, and former partner, Jim Hill, Slew sired 102 stakes winners. They include 1984 Kentucky Derby winner Swale, A.P. Indy, Capote and Slew o' Gold, and have earned more than $75 million in purses.

Taylor, who moved to Lexington two years ago with his wife, Karen, to be near Slew, was with the horse when he was pronounced dead. Slew spent his years of retirement at Spendthrift Farm, then spent the last 17 years at Three Chimneys in Midway, Ky., before arriving at Hill 'n' Dale on April 1.

Slew will be buried beneath a statue in a courtyard at Hill 'n' Dale, a 319-acre farm near Keeneland.

"He had the greatest heart. He was a fighter to the end," Karen Taylor said.

On Saturday at Churchill Downs, Karen Taylor and Jean Cruguet, Slew's jockey, presented a trophy after the Derby day's first race -- the Seattle Slew Tribute.

"It was a privilege to be on a horse like that," Cruguet said Tuesday from Keeneland. "On the biggest days, he won the biggest races. He had a good life, he did everything a horse could do."

Slew was moved to Hill 'n' Dale, a quieter farm, because he was too close to the breeding shed and it caused him to become agitated when mares arrived, Mickey Taylor said.

In an interview last week with The Associated Press, Slew's trainer Billy Turner called the colt one of the toughest to hit the race track.

"I knew I had a horse who was different from the rest," Turner said. "I knew when you see a horse go that fast with no effort, that's different. He was a good student with tremendous energy and phenomenal ability. All I had to do was control it. ... He had blinding speed and burning determination. My job was to get him to accept competition and other horses."

Slew's retirement in 1978 at age 4 seemed premature, but his career as a stallion was infinitely more lucrative. The Taylors made a fortune breeding Slew, earning fees well over $100,000 per mare. After Slew's first surgery, he was pulled from the breeding line, but he was back in business last year, with 43 of 46 mares in foal. His last breeding session was Feb. 23.

Mickey Taylor described Slew's walk recently, saying: "He looks like a crab, a bad crab," when his front legs go one way and his hind legs another.

But he sure could run in his heyday. He won his first six races and had never trailed heading to the Derby. When the gates opened for the Derby, Slew smacked the gate and slammed into a horse next to him. Ridden by Cruguet, Slew regained his stride and by the time the field hit the first turn, he was well on his way to a 1¾-length victory.

In the Preakness Stakes, he was briefly second early on, but won by 1½ lengths. The Belmont was a start-to-finish celebration, with Cruguet standing in the irons and pointing his whip skyward just before Slew crossed the finish line four lengths in front.

"He was the fastest horse I ever rode," Cruguet said last month. "Maybe not the greatest, but he was a speed demon. Wouldn't let anyone ahead of him. He was a miler, but had great heart to finish first no matter what the distance."

At 4, Slew had a new rider in Angel Cordero and new trainer in Doug Peterson. He also went out in style, beating Affirmed in the '78 Marlboro Cup at Belmont Park and capping his career with a victory in the Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct.

Hill 'n' Dale owner John Sikura was proud to have Slew at his farm.

"It was one of the great privileges to be around something great, a feeling that will likely never be duplicated," he said. "He was one in a million, and showed us there is that possibility in a game of impossibilities."

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