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Seattle Slew wins Belmont Stakes and horse racing's coveted Triple Crown on June 11, 1977.
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On June 11, 1977, Seattle Slew, a three-year-old colt owned by a Yakima couple, wins the Belmont Stakes. The decisive four-lengths victory secures thoroughbred racing’s “Triple Crown,” following Slew’s successes at the Kentucky Derby on May 7 and the Preakness Stakes on May 21. No horse has won the Triple Crown in four years, and Seattle Slew is the first undefeated competitor ever to do so.
Almost a Gift Horse
Seattle Slew, born on February 15, 1974, was the first-born foal of My Charmer. Although sired by the graded stakes winner Bold Reasoning, when he was auctioned as a yearling in 1974, he elicited little interest. Yakima residents Mickey and Karen Taylor joined with Florida veterinarian Jim Hill and his wife Sally to enter a bargain basement bid of $17,500. They named their colt "Seattle Slew" to reflect Washington’s largest city and Florida’s swampy real estate.
The dark bay colt won his first stakes race at Belmont on September 20, 1976, by five lengths and never saw the tail of another horse at the finish line over the next eight starts. Shortly after his Triple Crown triumph, an exhausted Slew suffered his first loss at the Hollywood Park Swaps on July 3, 1977, when he came in fourth by a humbling 16 lengths. Slew raced seven times the following year, winning all but two. He triumphed in his farewell run at Aqueduct on November 11, 1978, by more than three lengths. (Seattle Slew never raced at Seattle’s former Longacres Race Track, but starred in two separate “Golden Gallop” laps in 1977.)
Over his career, Seattle Slew racked up 14 wins out of 17 starts and earned $1.2 million in purses, but his work (and income) was just beginning. The stallion was syndicated and put to stud, earning as much as $800,000 per mare as he sired more than 1,000 foals and 102 stakes winners, including 1984 Kentucky Derby and Belmont champion Swale. From 1978 to 1985, he stood at the Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1985 he was moved to Robert Clay's Three Chimneys Farm. While there he was regularly galloped under tack to keep him physically and mentally fit.
Just prior to the 2000 breeding season, Seattle Slew began to have health problems. He had surgery for spinal compression, returning to the breeding shed in 2001. On April 1, 2002, shortly after his second neck surgery, the 28-year-old stallion was moved, along with Tom Wade, his long-time groom, to Hill 'n' Dale Farm near Lexington, Kentucky, to give him a quieter atmosphere to recover in.
Seattle Slew passed away at the Hill 'n' Dale Farm on May 7, 2002 -- precisely one quarter of a century after his Kentucky Derby victory.
Laura Vecsey, "Farewell to a Champion," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 8, 2002, p. D1-2; Bob Sherwin, "A Breed Apart," The Seattle Times, May 8, 2002, p. D-1, 6; Associated Press reports, May 8, 2002; Susan van Dyke, "The Ain't, Never Was, a Horse Like Seattle Slew," Washington Thoroughbred, May 2002, p. 526.
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Seattle Slew winning the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, May 7, 1977
Courtesy Churchill Downs and Sadis Filmworks
Seattle Slew at Three Chimneys Farm, Midway, Kentucky, 1990
Photo by Tony Leonard, Courtesy Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association
Seattle Slew, running at Longacres to support cancer research, 1977
Courtesy Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association