He is undeniably one of the immortals of Thoroughbred racing. He entered history as the tenth Triple Crown champion, and did so after costing only $17,500. Many did not see him being a champion, but he showed them appearances can be deceiving as he claimed the Crown without losing a single race beforehand.
He also made one start in Southern California, and that start was memorable for two very distinct reasons.
Though Seattle Slew's purchase price was in the tens of thousands, it was a small amount compared to what he earned during his on-track adventures. Owned by Tayhill Racing, Slew was unstoppable for the first nine starts of his career, winning top juvenile honors for the 1976 season after a perfect 3-0 record that was highlighted by the Grade I Champagne Stakes.
That laid the foundation for a dominant winter and spring that saw the Billy Turner trainee and jockey Jean Cruguet storm through their competition. They won all their preps, including the Grade I Flamingo Stakes and Wood Memorial, and that momentum carried them to a sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. With that latter victory, Seattle Slew emerged as the first undefeated Triple Crown champion.
Only three weeks after the Belmont, Seattle Slew made another start. Up to that point, he had only competed back East and in the Midwest by virtue of his trip to Churchill Downs. But now Slew was out West. The West Coast, to be exact. Hollywood Park welcomed him as the second Triple Crown winner to compete in Southern California, and the first since Citation nearly thirty years earlier. Entered in the Swaps Stakes, thousands of fans swarmed the Track of the Lakes and Flowers to get a glimpse of the newest winner of racing's biggest prize. They got that glimpse, and they also became part of what has gone down as the most shocking moment in Hollywood Park's history.
As would be expected with Seattle Slew's record to that point, he was sent off as the chalk. But the fans would not see the undefeated streak continue. Slew stayed close to leader and eventual winner J.O. Tobin for more than half of the race, but he was unable to keep up with the fast pace and finished fourth for what turned out to be his lone off the board result.
Seattle Slew never raced in California again, but the Swaps Stakes ended up being nothing more than a hiccup in a year that saw the dark bay Thoroughbred capture Three-Year-Old and Horse of the Year honors at the Eclipse Awards.
Ten months after the Swaps, Seattle Slew returned to the races. As was the case in his two and three-year-old campaigns, he was tough to dethrone at four. He sported a record of five wins in seven starts in 1978, including victories in the Grade I Marlboro Cup and Woodward Stakes, and finished second in his other starts to cement his bid for Top Handicap Horse.
Interestingly, Slew defeated fellow Triple Crown winner Affirmed twice in 1978. They finished one-two in the Marlboro Cup that September, and Slew got the upper hand again by finishing second in the Jockey Club Gold Cup while Affirmed came home fifth. It represented what could be called an unconventional passing of the torch between Triple Crown champions. Affirmed never beat Seattle Slew, but he emulated the son of Bold Reasoning in sheer dominance when he made the move to the handicap ranks.
After Slew headed off to a stallion career, Affirmed succeeded him as the sport's best four-year-old in 1979. Like his predecsessor, Affirmed swept both the Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and only lost twice in nine starts to capture the Handicap and Horse of the Year trophies.
Seattle Slew won fourteen of seventeen races in his illustrious career before going on to be a sire. Though first place in the Swaps Stakes eluded him, Slew managed to get wins at Hollywood Park through his progeny. Emerging from his first crop of foals was Landaluce, who won at the Home of Champions in her career debut before dominating her rivals in the Grade II Hollywood Lassie Stakes in the summer of 1982. Like her father, Landaluce became an Eclipse Award winner when she was voted Champion Two-Year-Old Filly posthomously that season. Nine years later, A.P. Indy captured the Grade I Hollywood Futurity before going on to join his sire as a Belmont Stakes winner, Champion Three-Year-Old, and Horse of the Year.
Despite his limited presence in the Southland when he was in action, Seattle Slew made more ties to the area thanks to his children. Combining that with his result in the Swaps and brief rivalry with Affirmed, the legend has established his place in California racing in arguably the most unique way possible.