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10 Facts, History & FAQs About Seattle Slew, Triple Crown Racehorse

10 Facts, History & FAQs About Seattle Slew, Triple Crown Racehorse

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From humble beginnings, Seattle Slew became one of the greatest Thoroughbred racehorses America has ever seen. Despite being a gangly, undervalued colt, he blossomed into a handsome stallion with incredible skill.

Seattle Slew was born on February 15, 1974, near Lexington, Kentucky to breeder Ben Castleman. The dark bay Thoroughbred stallion stood at 16 hands tall and weighed 1,120 pounds. He became the 10th winner of the coveted Triple Crown.

Common stats about Seattle Slew:

Born:February 15, 1974
Died:May 7, 2002 (aged 28)
Height: 16.0 hands
Color:Dark Bay
Race Record:17: 14–2–0

As a yearling, Seattle Slew was purchased by Karen and Mickey Taylor, along with Jim and Sally Hill for $17,500 at the Fasig-Tipton yearling auction. After planning to stick to a budget of $10,000- $15,000, Karen convinced her husband to keep bidding as she admired the spirited colt. After buying the colt, his owners then sent him to former steeplechase rider Billy Turner for training.

Despite his initial awkwardness, Seattle Slew soon proved his worth. He was described as “intelligent, dominant and determined.” He won his debut race in 1976 at Belmont Park and only got better from there. After kicking off his career, he won his first nine races before finishing in fourth in the Hollywood Derby.

Seattle Slew’s most notable achievement from his three-year-old year was winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes to secure the title of Triple Crown champion. After his inspiring wins, he kicked off the “Slewmania” craze, as people couldn’t get enough of the beautiful bay.

In 1978, Douglas Peterson took over the role as Seattle Slew’s trainer. He won all but two races in his four-year-old season, coming in second at the Paterson Handicap and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Seattle Slew finished up his legendary career with 14 wins, two seconds, and one fourth-place finish.

Here are Interesting Facts About Seattle Slew:

1. Seattle Slew is The First Horse to Win the Triple Crown Being Undefeated

By winning the 1977 Triple Crown, Seattle Slew became just the 10th horse to win the elite title. However, he was the first horse to win it undefeated.

Going into the Kentucky Derby, Seattle Slew had six wins under his belt. He had gained the admiration of people all over and went into the race as the heavy favorite. He secured the win in the Run for the Roses, but appeared visibly upset afterward. “It was the only time I was scared of him,” said John Polston, his groom.

Just two weeks later, Seattle Slew went on to win the Belmont Stakes and his popularity continued to grow. Between the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes, Seattle Slew trained well, showing a new level of determination according to Turner. He went on to win the Belmont Stakes in stylish fashion with a four-length lead, securing his spot as a Triple Crown winner.

Also, read about the 13 Triple Crown winning horses.

Seattle Slew finished the Belmont Stakes with a record of 9-0. After the race, he was sedated three times as part of an advertising campaign for a new X-ray by Xerox. He was then sedated again for a fourth time during his flight to California for the Swaps Stakes, which was just three weeks after the Belmont.

At the Swaps Stakes, Seattle Slew had his first loss, coming in fourth place. Turner believes that between the multiple sedations and short time frame between races that the colt was not at his top game.

2. He Got His Name After His Owner’s Home State

Seattle Slew’s name was chosen by his owner Karen, a Washington state native. Though Seattle came from the city, Slew was inspired by sloughs in which loggers once used to transport heavy logs. However, Karen thought that slough would be too hard for people to remember, so she changed it to Slew. As an ode to her home state and logging business, the name Seattle Slew came to be.

Seattle Slew famous racehorse
Photo by Susan Nunes

3. He is the Only Belmont Stakes Winner to Sire a Belmont Winner Who Also Sired a Belmont Stakes Winner

As his career as a stud, Seattle Slew sired the great A.P. Indy, who won the Belmont Stakes in 1992. A.P. Indy then went on to sire Rags to Riches, who won the 2007 Belmont Stakes. It is the only case where three generations in a row won the Belmont Stakes.

4. He Was a Fighter, Overcoming Several Setbacks

During his career, Seattle Slew faced many challenges. However, being a fighter, he overcame all of them.

In January 1978, he fought off a life-threatening collapsed left jugular vein due to an injection that missed the vein. Fortunately, he made a full recovery and returned to racing in May.

That same season, he faced several other obstacles. He suffered a ligament injury and a filled ankle, among other things. However, he still managed to have a successful rest of his racing career.

Also, read our fact guides about other famous racehorses such as Secretariat and Seabiscuit.

5. He Raced in Yellow and Black

In addition to choosing his name, Karen also chose his racing colors. She went with yellow and black, as she felt those colors would be able to be easily spotted from the grandstand.

6. Seattle Slew is the Only Triple Crown Winner to Beat Another Triple Crown Winner

Seattle Slew is the only horse in history to beat another Triple Crown winner. Affirmed won the Triple Crown just one year after Seattle Slew did.

In the 1978 Marlboro Cup Handicap, Seattle Slew beat out Affirmed to take home the win in a thrilling showdown, with Affirmed coming in at second. The two met again in the Jockey Club Gold Cup, where Seattle Slew placed second and Affirmed placed fifth.

7. His Regular Racetrack Companion Was A Pony Named Steamboat

Seattle Slew’s racetrack companion was a piebald pony by the name of Steamboat. After the racing legend retired, Steamboat was given to a school for handicapped children.

8. He Wore a Special Headpiece

Throughout his campaign as a two-year-old, Seattle Slew wore a ring bit in order to secure his tongue. However, as a three-year-old and on, he wore a distinct inverted Y headpiece. The headpiece was specially designed by Sure-Win.

Seattle Slew racing in the Kentucky Derby

9. After Retiring From Racing Seattle Slew Stood at Stud, Siring Over 1,000 Foals

Upon retiring from his racing career in 1978, Seattle Slew went on to have a new life as a stud. For seven years, he stood at Spendthrift Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

Then, in 1985, he moved to Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky. His stud fee was set at a whopping $800,000, though later it went down to $300,000.  In total, he sired 1,103 named foals, including 537 winners and 111 stakes winners.

At the end of his breeding career, Seattle Slew moved to Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm where he lived out the rest of his days. His trusty groom Tom Wade traveled with him from Spendthrift Farm to Three Chimneys and even to Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm.

10. He Accumulated Many Top Honors During His Career

Throughout his historic career, Seattle Slew received many awards. He won the U.S. Champion 2-Yr-Old Colt in 1976 and U.S. Champion 3-Yr-Old Colt in 1977, as well as the 1977 Horse of the Year.

In 1978, he won the U.S. Champion Older Male Horse. He became a member of the United States Racing Hall of Fame in 1981 and came in ninth in the Blood-Horse magazine’s List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century.

Seattle Slew also won awards as a sire. In 1994, he was the leading sire in North America and in 1995 and 1996 he was the North American leading broodmare sire.

Also, see our list of the 12 greatest racehorses in history.

Who Was Seattle Slew’s Jockey?

For the majority of his career, Jean Cruget was Seattle Slew’s jockey. As a French native, Cruget won numerous races both in America and internationally, with a total of 2,407 wins to his name. He rode Seattle Slew in all three races of the Triple Crown.

For his last four races, Angel Cordero Jr. rode Seattle Slew. Cordero Jr. also had a successful career, as he has won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes, though not all in the same year.

Yes, Seattle Slew and Secretariat are related. Seattle Slew’s sire, Bold Reasoning, was the grandson of Bold Ruler, who was the father of Secretariat.

When Did Seattle Slew Die?

Seattle Slew died on May 7, 2002, exactly 25 years after his Kentucky Derby win. He passed away in his sleep at the age of 28.

Seattle Slew is buried at Hill ‘n’ Dale. He was buried whole, which is the highest honor for a racehorse, along with his favorite blanket and a bag of peppermints. In his honor, Three Chimneys Farm erected a statue of the legendary Thoroughbred.

Mary Perdue

Monday 11th of October 2021

Great article Anna! I have a book coming out next year called "Landaluce: The Story of Seattle Slew's First Champion " from University Press of Kentucky. Has lots of info about Slews early stud career at Spendthrift Farm.