May 8, 2002 -- Seattle Slew, the last living Triple Crown winner died in his sleep
Tuesday morning at Hill 'n' Dale Farm in Kentucky. At 28 years of age
Seattle Slew left a strong influence in the game through his offspring in
the 24 years since he retired from racing.
Billy Turner, who trained the 10th Triple Crown winner for Mickey
and Karen Taylor, will always have a soft spot in his heart for 'Slew.
"He was simply great," Turner said this morning. "I have so much
admiration for him and so many pleasant memories. He was just a remarkable
Seattle Slew's best effort as a three-year-old came in the Kentucky
Derby, according to Turner.
"He overcame so much adversity in that race," the trainer said.
"You don't see horses do what he did and still win the Derby. He was off
last and was getting shut off down inside. He bulled his way through a pack
of horses to press a blistering pace. Most horses who press a quick pace
and get into trouble don't finish well in the Derby."
Opening a three-length lead in the stretch, Seattle Slew held on to
win by 1 ? lengths.
After winning the Preakness two weeks later, Seattle Slew headed to
Belmont with a chance to become a Triple Crown champion. Turner vividly
remembers the weeks leading up to the final leg of the Triple Crown.
"Secretariat was the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years and
before him there were a lot of people who thought there would never be
another Triple Crown winner (after Citation in 1948)," Turner said. "So
when he won it, he became a legend. We made a few enemies with Seattle Slew
because we were threatening the king and his realm was being threatened only
four years later. It was kind of like people not wanting to see Babe Ruth's
home run record broken by Roger Maris."
With his win over Run Dusty Run in the Belmont, Seattle Slew etched
his name in racing history books forever.
Seattle Slew's best race may have been a defeat in his four-year-old year,
according to Turner, who was fired after the three-year-old season.
"In the Jockey Club Gold Cup he fought for the lead through three-quarters
in 1:09 2/5 for a mile-and-a-half race, put away Affirmed, but got beat a
nose by Exceller."
There were plenty of good memories in the first half of 1977, but Turner's
fondest moment with Seattle Slew did not come until years after the legend
"A couple of years ago, I went to see him at Three Chimneys and I
was at the stallion barn talking to the farm manager," Turner recalled.
"When he heard my voice, he gave a low nicker and came over to the front of
the stall, as if to say hello. I was amazed he did that and it was a very
moving moment for me.
"He's definitely carved out his own niche in the breeding aspect.
His broodmares have produced champions and his sons have done the same.
We'll feel his influence for a long time."