For the first time since Sir Barton won

By Richard Rosenblatt Associated Press Published:

For the first time since Sir Barton won the Derby, the Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 1919, there is no living Triple Crown winner stabled anywhere in the world.

A big gangly yearling who turned into a muscular colt with "blinding speed and burning determination," Seattle Slew died in his stall at the advanced age of 28. He was buried an hour later, beneath a statue in a courtyard at Hill 'n' Dale, a 319-acre farm near Lexington, Ky.

Slew, as he was affectionately known, was the only horse to win the Triple Crown while undefeated and his three-year racing career produced 14 wins in 17 races and earnings of $1,208,726.

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

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.

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

Battling the ravages of arthritis, Slew had two spinal fusion operations the past two years, the most recent in March. He was moved from Three Chimneys in Midway, Ky., his home for nearly 17 years, to the quieter Hill 'n' Dale on April 1. Taylor said the change was made because Slew was too close to the breeding shed and it caused him to become agitated when mares arrived.

In his final months, the stallion was a bit wobbly because of the second operation. The first one, the owner said, "saved his life."

As word spread of Slew's death, floral arrangements began arriving at Hill 'n' Dale, with cards reading: "For Slew" and "For the Taylors."

"When he arrived on the farm, it was like seeing the Grand Canyon in person after just seeing it in pictures _ very awe-inspiring," Hill 'n' Dale owner John Sikura said. "He came here in a state of older age and had just gone through major surgery, but you could still see a brightness in his eye and that vigor that let you know that he was different from other horses."

Taylor and his wife, Karen, were constantly with Slew the past two years, moving from their Montana home to Lexington to be with him after the first operation.

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

Last month, she seemed to sense the end was near for Slew, but had a hard time talking about it. She stood only a few yards away from his huge stall and spoke softy:

"We'll just take things day to day with him, and help along the best we can," she said, tears welling in her eyes. "If the time comes, we'll just do what we need to do. We'll need to go on."

On Saturday, Derby day at Churchill Downs, Karen Taylor and Jean Cruguet, Slew's jockey, presented a trophy after the 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."

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 as a stallion his earning power was easily into the tens of millions of dollars. The Taylors made a fortune breeding Slew, earning fees well over $100,000 per mare.

After Slew's first operation, 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 Slew sure could run in his heyday.

He won his first six races and had never trailed heading to the Derby on May 7, 1977. When the Derby began, 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 on his way to a 1 3/4-length victory.

In the Preakness Stakes, he was briefly second early on, but won by 1 1/2 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 line four lengths in front.

"He was the fastest horse I ever rode," Cruguet said. "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. The colt also went out in style, beating Affirmed in the '78 Marlboro Cup and capping his career with a victory in the Stuyvesant Handicap at Aqueduct.

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Sports Writer Steve Bailey contributed to this story from Lexington, Ky.

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