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“SEATTLE SLEW : THE GREATEST CINDERELLA STORY OF THE TURF”
The arrival at Summerhill of the best racing representative of Seattle Slew’s sire line ever to set foot on this continent, in the form of A P ARROW, revives memories of his famous grandfather. The very sale at which Seattle Slew was acquired is underway in America right now. We recall the fact Seattle Slew remains the only one of eleven American Triple Crown winners to have been sold at public auction. The Thoroughbred Daily News tells this story.
In history, only a select few horses have made it to the G1 Belmont Stakes following wins in the G1 Kentucky Derby and G1 Preakness Stakes, with a chance to sweep racing’s Triple Crown. Of those, even fewer - 11 to be exact - have swept the cherished Triple. Only one of them has ever been offered and sold at public auction. That honour resides with 1977 Triple Crown hero Seattle Slew.
In the market for an early developing two-year-old to win Sunland Park’s Riley Allison Futurity, one of the richest juvenile races at the time, Karen and Mickey Taylor came upon a colt in the July catalogue that looked like he had the potential to fit the bill.
“My husband, Mickey, looked at the whole catalogue before he went to that year’s sale”, recalled Karen Taylor. “He dog-eared hip 128, a colt by Bold Reasoning out of My Charmer”.
“We liked Bold Reasoning because he was a relatively new sire, and the colt was a first foal out of the mare, and we really like first foals,” Karen continued. “We thought the colt would have plenty of speed from his sire.”
While the dark bay appeared to have plenty of potential on paper, the Taylors didn’t shy away from the fact that both the colt’s sire and dam were, at that time, still unproven. When it came to selecting young horses, the Taylors opted to focus on the physical element over the pedigree. And what was the Taylors’s impression the first time they saw hip 128 led out for inspection?
“The first time we met him, he didn’t just walk out of his stall, he burst out with energy and fire,” recalled Karen. “He had pizzazz, he was on his toes and he gave you this eye, that he had until the day he died, that would stop you in your tracks. Everybody noticed his eye. They always talk about the ‘eye of eagles” in a horse, and Slew had it. He had an eye that just could look into your soul.”
While the youngster had plenty of personality and charisma, certain aspects of his physical appearance caused many to look elsewhere. But not the Taylors. “He was well muscled, but he also had a very straight hind leg and, since Mickey was into Quarter Horses, that didn’t deter us,” explained Karen. Mickey added, “His straight leg probably turned off 90 percent of the people, because at that time, people thought a straight leg was just for sprinters. He was a big reason that many changed their philosophy about those types of horses. In fact, A.P. Indy [by Seattle Slew] also has a very straight hind leg, and he went on to win the Belmont Stakes, too.”
But despite Slew’s conformational shortcomings, Karen was instantly sold on the big, awkward colt. “I liked him because he had short cannon bones and short pasterns,” Karen explained. “He turned out slightly in his right front, but he walked straight through it and had a terrific stride, so that didn’t bother us. I just fell in love with him the first time I saw him”.
“When we went to see Slew, Paul told us we were the only people who came back to look at him again,” said Karen. “In fact, we must have gone back five times. We had to go back several times, because he would always dance around and was on his toes”.
Mickey recalled, with vivid clarity, the moment Seattle Slew walked into the Fasig-Tipton pavilion the afternoon of July 19, 1975. On that occasion, Fasig-Tipton’s John Finney was the announcer, while Ralph Retler served as the auctioneer. “We were sitting on the left side of the pavilion, in about the eighth or ninth row, on fold-out chairs,” Mickey remarked. “There was only one other bidder—we could have been bidding against the reserve or the owner. I bid $15,500, then there was another bid from the other side, and I went to $16,500. To tell you the truth, I was probably going to stop at $15,500, but Karen gave me the elbow.” Karen quickly interjected, “I gave him two elbows. I was pretty determined to get him.”